Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday said he could have easily sent the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to the Senate Impeachment Court for trial but he did not do so.
Alvarez said he would want the House committee on justice, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, to conduct hearings on the ouster complaint filed against Sereno by lawyer Larry Gadon to ensure her a fair trial.
Alvarez said a mere signature from at least 98 lawmakers belonging to the supermajority-led Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan would be enough to elevate the impeachment document to the Senate for a full-blown trial.
“If the House of Representatives would want to railroad the Sereno impeachment case, we could have done so by a mere signature from 98 lawmakers. We can immediately transmit it to the Senate for trial,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez cited the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings where signatures of at least one-third or 98 lawmakers would be enough for the House to send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate—acting as impeachment court—for trial.
“But we did not do so, because the House would like to accord a fair trial to the Chief Justice,” Alvarez said. “If we speak of numbers [to impeach Sereno], we have it,” he added.
Alvarez made the statement as he defended the Lower House from allegations that his leadership is railroading the impeachment complaint against Sereno even as the President allegedly supported the ouster move against Sereno.
“We will give the Chief Justice, her camp, the chance to answer the allegations leveled against her at the House committee on justice,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the House under his stewardship would not like to put lawmakers and the institution in a bad light like what had happened during the trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona where prosecutors purportedly had hard time looking for evidence.
The House justice committee is expected to begin its hearings on the Sereno impeachment case when session resumes in November.
The committee will determine probable cause in the next hearing to impeach Sereno after it declared sufficient grounds to tackle the ouster petition.
At the same time, Umali said his panel would decide next month whether or not to grant the request of the Chief Justice’s camp to allow her lawyers to represent her and cross-examine the witnesses.