IN THE KNOW: Supreme Court justices who faced impeachment complaints
Hilario Davide and seven associate justices
On June 2, 2003, deposed President Joseph Estrada filed in the House of Representatives an impeachment complaint against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and seven associate justices for allegedly conspiring in the ouster of Estrada and participating in Edsa II. This was dismissed four months later by the House committee on justice due to insufficiency of substance.
However, on Oct. 23, 2003, another impeachment complaint was filed by Representatives Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Felix Fuentebella against Davide alone, for betrayal of public trust and graft in the disposition of the Judiciary Development Fund. Although the complaint was endorsed by more than a third of the House, the Supreme Court voted 13-0 that the complaint was unconstitutional because it violated the provision that no impeachment proceeding shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a year.
On Dec. 12, 2011, the House voted to impeach then Chief Justice Renato Corona and be put on trial for betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution and graft. Corona was then ousted by the Senate on May 29, 2012, after a six-month impeachment trial for discrepancies in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).
The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, found Corona’s failure to include some $2.4 million in bank deposits—on top of an allegedly commingled amount worth P80.7 million—in his SALNs from 2002 to 2010. Corona was appointed in May 2010 by outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Maria Lourdes Sereno
In August 2017, two impeachment complaints against then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno were filed—the first from Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc., while the other from lawyer Larry Gardon.
But it was only Gadon’s complaint that got the endorsement of House members on Aug. 30, 2017, for alleged betrayal of public trust over the Supreme Court’s “whimsical” and “excessive” purchase of the latest model of the Toyota Land Cruiser amounting to P5.1 million, as well as her alleged failure to declare “exorbitant lawyer’s fees” purportedly amounting to $745,000, or P37 million. On March 8, 2018, voting 38-2, the House committee on justice found probable cause to impeach Sereno.
Two months later, on May 11, the Supreme Court sat in a special session and deliberated on the quo warranto petition brought by Solicitor General Jose Calida for not submitting all of her financial statements to the Judicial and Bar Council when she applied for the top job in the judiciary.
The Constitution provides that the Chief Justice may be removed from office through impeachment in Congress, but Associate Justices Noel Tijam, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta and Francis Jardeleza voted to grant the quo warranto petition. Six magistrates, including acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, voted against it.
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