Sereno to House: Impeach me now
Let’s get on with it!
The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Sunday dared members of the House of Representatives’ justice committee to transmit the impeachment complaint against her to the Senate if they really believed they had the goods on her.
Lawyer Aldwin Salumbides, one of the spokespersons for Sereno, said the House committee chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali was stalling the proceedings to build up the complaint brought by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
“If some members of the panel feel there’s ‘overwhelming’ evidence against the Chief Justice, they should simply elevate the proceedings to the Senate. There is no good reason to delay,” Salumbides said in a statement.
“But as it appears, the committee still wants to continue gathering evidence or build up Gadon’s case, as some members probably know that the allegations are baseless and will not prosper,” he said.
Gadon has accused Sereno of misdeclaring her finances, tampering with a restraint order issued by another justice, and manipulating the nomination process of the Judicial and Bar Council, among other alleged offenses.
Umali’s committee had found the complaint sufficient in form and substance.
It is currently trying to determine if there is probable cause to put Sereno on trial in the Senate.
A two-thirds vote by the House is required to send the impeachment case to the Senate for trial.
Salumbides also lambasted those behind the efforts to unseat Sereno for allegedly mounting a “psywar campaign” to further smear her reputation.
He said news reports that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had accepted the invitation for him to appear at the impeachment hearing’s resumption were part of a scheme to obscure Gadon’s failure to present strong evidence against Sereno.
It turned out, however, that Carpio had yet to decide if he would testify against Sereno, as indicated in a letter he sent to Umali asking to specify the matters that would be discussed in the next hearing.
“Every day they float new names and personalities of those who are supposed to testify against the Chief Justice. People can only conclude that this is all part of the propaganda to make it appear that Chief Justice Sereno is losing support among her colleagues [on] the Supreme Court,” Salumbides said.
Three of the justices on the 15-member tribunal—Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam—had testified in the impeachment hearings on Sereno’s supposed high-handedness in dealing with administrative matters in the high court.
According to Salumbides, the issues raised by the magistrates were “personal and administrative matters that have been threshed out by the Supreme Court en banc as these primarily pertained to its own internal rules.”
“We go back to the crucial question: Are those really impeachable offenses? Definitely they are not,” he said.
Then President Benigno Aquino III appointed Sereno to serve on the Supreme Court in 2010. She was the most junior justice on the tribunal when Aquino appointed her Chief Justice in August 2012, riling the senior justices who jealously guarded the primacy tradition on the court.
Sereno’s current troubles began on Aug. 8 last year when she wrote President Duterte to assert the judiciary’s authority over judges allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
Mr. Duterte brooks no opposition to his policies, especially his brutal war on drugs, which has taken the lives of thousands of mostly poor, small-time drug users and pushers.
Last week, various groups led by his allies former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption brought an impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, whose office is investigating Mr. Duterte and members of his family for alleged hidden wealth.
But a member of the House has yet to endorse the complaint, so it is not yet considered filed.
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