After months of deliberations, the House Committee on Justice found that there was probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
On Thursday, March 8, thirty eight members of the committee voted that Sereno should be impeached. Only representatives Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands and Kit Belmonte of Quezon City voted otherwise. No one abstained.
The impeachment complaint against Sereno was filed by Lawyer Larry Gadon, who accused her of culpable of violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes.
Gadon accused Sereno of misdeclaring her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), bypassing the en banc, and delaying the benefits of retired Supreme Court personnel, among others.
The committee is slated to present its report, which includes the Articles of Impeachment, on March 14. The House is expected to vote on Sereno’s impeachment in May, after the Congress’ two-month break.
If the committee report got at least one-third vote of approval from the House plenary, it will be forwarded to the Senate, sitting as the impeachment court. Two-thirds vote of Senate members is needed to effectively impeach Sereno.
The camp of the chief justice, meanwhile, said that they were not surprised by the House panel’s decision.
Sereno’s spokesperson lawyer Jojo Lacanilao also expressed that their camp is “eagerly waiting” for the Senate trial to begin.
“This is not the end of it all, and the burden of proving the case is on the House, for the House to prove that the Chief Justice should be removed. We believe the Chief Justice is innocent and she can prove her innocence in the Senate,” he said.
In a separate statement, Sereno claimed that the House Committee has denied her of her “right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses.”
“And resource persons arraigned against me is nothing but blatantly unfair,” Sereno said in her speech during the 30th anniversary and 23rd national convention of the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA).
The House committee had refused to allow Sereno’s lawyers to attend the hearings against her, insisting that the chief justice herself should show up.
“As I must fight to have my day at the Senate impeachment court, this is a fight for judicial independence, for the right of every member of the court to confront her accuser face-to-face in a trial type proceeding,” Sereno added.
Malacañang, meanwhile, lauded the House committee’s findings that there was a probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
“This is another evidence that the processes provided in our Constitution particularly the impeachment process which holds our high officials liable is working,” Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“So we are happy to see that our institution is working again,” he added.