House panel chair says impeach raps will be handled with dispatch
The House of Representatives will handle the impeachment complaints brought against seven Supreme Court justices on its own terms even after Malacañang claimed any attempt to unseat them was bound to fail, the House justice committee chair, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon, said on Sunday.
“The Palace and even the Supreme Court know that while they may have their own judgment of the case, the principles of the Constitution stay regarding the independence of the Congress on how to tackle this,” Leachon said in a radio interview.
“After all, the exclusive jurisdiction to try and hear the [impeachment] case belongs exclusively to the committee on justice of the House,” he added.
Leachon, who took over the reins of the powerful House justice committee from another Oriental Mindoro congressman, Rep. Reynaldo Umali, was reacting to the statement of Palace spokesperson Harry Roque claiming that the impeachment complaints would just be tossed out for lack of merit.
Despite his affiliation with President Duterte’s House allies in the supermajority, he vowed to handle “with dispatch” and “utmost impartiality” the impeachment complaints filed by opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of the Liberal Party.
Rules to follow
“We have rules to follow. What Malacañang said is just part and parcel of democracy,” Leachon said.
Named in the complaint was Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, who was chosen by President Duterte as Sereno’s successor on Saturday.
Lagman’s group also brought impeachment complaints against Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Andres Reyes Jr., Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Alexander Gesmundo.
Former Associate Justice Samuel Martires also voted to expel Sereno, but no complaint was filed against him because he had already left the Supreme Court. The President appointed him Ombudsman on July 26.
De Castro, Tijam, Peralta, Bersamin and Jardeleza participated in the impeachment proceedings on the House justice committee against Sereno, accusing her of committing administrative lapses.
The hearings were suspended after Solicitor General Jose Calida initiated his own legal action to unseat Sereno, who locked horns with the President for insisting that only the Supreme Court may discipline judges he had linked to illegal drugs.
According to Leachon, it was still premature to say if the impeachment complaints were headed to the trash bin or would cripple the Supreme Court with the removal of more than half of its current 13 justices.
Meanwhile, Lagman expressed confidence that the complaints would satisfy the requirements set by the 1987 Constitution in removing a constitutional officer, a standard that the justices discarded in booting out Sereno.
“In our view, these will survive the test of sufficiency in form and substance. We believe there’s probable cause. That’s why we should not get ahead of the House committee on justice,” Lagman argued.
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