June 23, 2018, 10:39 am
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Deliberations on Articles of Impeachment hit snag

THE House committee on justice failed to finish the Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in time for today’s scheduled voting on the committee report that will recommend to the plenary that she be impeached for various offenses.

Rep. Reynaldo Umali (PPD-Laban, Oriental Mindoro) said the deliberations hit a snag after congressmen failed to agree how many charges will be included in the Articles of Impeachment.

“We didn’t finish the Articles of Impeachment because we have yet to come to an agreement (which allegations will be included),” said Umali. “Others want to be comprehensive to show that it is really a strong case and I believe so too.”

Umali said the hearing will be re-scheduled either on Monday or Tuesday next week at the latest and the panel will be ready by then to present the Articles of Impeachment.

The justice panel earlier agreed that a “small working body” composed of all its vice chairmen will be in charge of crafting the Articles of Impeachment based on the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

Last Thursday, the justice panel found probable cause to pursue Gadon’s complaint.

In the same hearing, majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas asked colleagues to whittle down the number of allegations that will be part of the Articles of Impeachment, choosing only the solid ones from the 27 listed by Gadon.

Umali said the postponement and the failure to come up with the Articles of Impeachment do not necessarily mean that the case against Sereno is weak.

“You will be the judge when you submit the articles of impeachment,” he said. “The whole idea is to present it as comprehensive as we could and we’ll just cross the bridge when we get there.”

Umali said Sereno’s alleged “psychological disorder” would show why the chief justice has a penchant for acting unilaterally even on matters involving the Court en banc.

“When you look at totality, the persona comes out. The psychological disorder is there,” said Umali, who was also a member of the prosecution panel in the Corona impeachment trial.

The panel had voted to declassify the details of its February 27 hearing where Sereno’s psychological evaluation was discussed in an executive session.

In that hearing, the psychiatrists who administered the exam admitted that they did not recommend Sereno to be included in the list of nominees for the post of chief justice in 2012.

“Even now as we speak you will see that everyone is already asking for (her to make an) act of sacrifice, supreme sacrifice (of resigning) but to no avail because (of) her psyche which is self-righteousness,” Umali said.

Umali also said the participation of former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile as adviser to the House prosecution team is not a political move.

“It is more (because of) his willingness to be of service to the Filipino people,” he said, reacting to speculations that Enrile may be trying to get back at Sereno since she was among the justices who did not vote to grant Enrile’s petition for bail in connection with the graft and plunder charges he is facing because of his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

Gadon has accused Sereno of betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes, particularly the untruthful declaration of her wealth in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), the same ground that allies of former president Benigno Aquino III used to oust Corona in 2012.

The complaint also accused Sereno of acting unilaterally on matters involving the Court en banc – the reason why her colleagues led by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro testified in the impeachment hearings at the House.

During the impeachment hearing, the committee found out that Sereno should have been disqualified for her failure to submit her SALN to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) when she was appointed in 2012 that should have voided her appointment.

The same issue was the basis of a 34-page quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida who asked the Tribunal last week to declare void Sereno’s appointment and remove her from her position.

NOT CONSULTED?

Some members of the Philippine Association of Court Employees yesterday questioned the decision of their leaders joining the call for the resignation of Sereno.

A court employee posted an open letter in the group’s official Facebook page questioning the move.

“With all due respect, we should not take sides,” the court employee said. 

In response to the open letter, the PACE leaders said the move was a “decision of your officers who you elected to said positions.

The Negros Occidental Regional Trial Court Judges Association also refused to join the call for Sereno’s resignation. – With Ashzel Hachero
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