THE chairman of the House committee on justice said Wednesday he believes the Supreme Court will vote in favor of the quo warranto petition filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, in the same manner they voted in favor of her leave of absence in March.
“That is what I think. That is my reading also on the situation based on the earlier action made by the Supreme Court where the court en banc voted 13-0 in favor of her leave of absence,” said Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the panel’s chairman.
“I think the numbers will no longer differ so much. If they differ, I guess it is just about one or two changing votes and siding with the chief justice,” he added.
Umali said the House would wait for the Court’s decision before proceeding with impeachment proceedings against Sereno, noting that if the quo warranto petition succeeds, there will no longer be an official to impeach.
He added that the House would “play it by ear” when it comes to preparing for a full-blown impeachment trial at the Senate, and acknowledged that a motion for reconsideration by Sereno was likely if the quo warranto petition is granted.
Umali also said he would recommend the impeachment complaint be archived only if an overwhelming majority of the justices vote to oust Sereno through the quo warranto petition.
Reports earlier said the Court will likely decide on the quo warranto petition on May 11 instead of March 17 as originally scheduled. Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the petition to question the validity of Sereno’s appointment to the office.
Calida filed the petition even as the justice committee was determining probable cause in the impeachment case filed against Sereno by lawyer Larry Gadon.
The committee eventually found probable cause in the Gadon complaint and approved six articles of impeachment against Sereno, who was appointed to the top post in 2012 by then President Benigno Aquino III.
Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao, member of the Makabayan bloc, said the imminent decision of the Supreme Court upholding the quo warranto petition against the embattled Sereno was expected.
“It is clear, it is like the elephant in the room. They will go through the process of quo warranto….definitely they will remove the chief justice,” Casilao said.
Umali allayed concerns that a favorable decision on the quo warranto petition may also be used against other impeachable officials.
“It will not happen in all [cases], because it doesn’t happen everyday that an appointment will be invalid or void,” Umali said.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said the House of Representatives would be able to approve the articles of impeachment against Sereno within a week or two after the resumption of session of Congress on May 15.
Alvarez said that the House justice committee had already found probable cause to impeach Sereno and prepared the corresponding committee report and articles of impeachment against her.
Before Congress adjourned March 21, the committee on rules referred the matter for plenary consideration. Congress will resume session on May 15.