Go easy on impeachments, IBP warns | Inquirer News
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Go easy on impeachments, IBP warns

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 07:35 AM September 07, 2017

The country’s biggest group of lawyers has broken its silence on the attempts to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as it called for prudence in unseating impeachable public officials.

In a statement, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said the 1987 Constitution “jealously protects” the judiciary since it was considered the weakest of the government’s three main branches.

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The IBP said that while it was a constitutional guarantee against corruption, an impeachment proceeding was a “bitter medicine,” and should be invoked “sparingly and only in the gravest instances.”

Besides moves to unseat Sereno, the group noted that an impeachment complaint had also been filed against Commission on Elections Chair Andres Bautista. A similar complaint was being readied against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, a retired Supreme Court associate justice.

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“Impeachment is a scalpel, not a broadsword and, even if it were the latter, no sword retains its sharpness if swung too far and too often,” read the statement, signed by IBP president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo.

“The frequency and rate of these impeachment initiatives dilutes its power, strains the limited resources of Congress and presents troubling questions whether like any other device, impeachment is being wielded wisely or carelessly,” it stressed.

The lawyers’ organization said impeachment should not be used as a “weapon of submission” as it would only defeat the intention of the 30-year-old Constitution to shield the judicial branch from “considerations other than the facts and the law in discharging its function of adjudication.”

“As the unelected branch, the judiciary’s sole standard of action is the rule of law rather than the public pulse,” the IBP said.

“It is an assault upon the Constitution and the very ideal of limited government that is enshrined in it, when impeachment is misused as the very tool to undermine judicial independence,” it added.

Like what it did during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, the IBP vowed to closely watch the impeachment complaints pending in the House of Representatives.

The group also maintained its “foremost allegiance to none other than the rule of law.”

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Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, a leader of a group which supported President Duterte’s election campaign, had brought the first of two impeachment complaints against Sereno, accusing her of failing to declare P37 million in lawyer’s fees in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Gadon said the Chief Justice should also be ousted for purchasing a P5-million sports utility vehicle with public funds, arbitrarily appointing personnel in the judiciary, and forcing judges to defy the Duterte administration.

The lawyer said Sereno’s acts were tantamount to culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and corruption.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption founding chair Dante Jimenez and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution president Eligio Mallari filed the other impeachment complaint against Sereno.

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Andres Bautista, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Sereno impeachment, Supreme Court
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