Sereno expects to win in Senate impeachment trial | Inquirer News

Sereno expects to win in Senate impeachment trial

HEARING ON IMPEACHMENT COMPLAINT Rep. Reynaldo Umali (center), head of the House committee on justice, presides over the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. —EDWIN BACASMAS/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, accepting the inevitability of her impeachment in the House of Representatives, has expressed confidence she will be able to defend herself and win in the Senate trial.

Sereno on Wednesday said she would be preparing for her defense in the trial as she embarked on an indefinite leave starting Thursday.


“I want to give you the assurance that while I will be taking a leave of absence, the ship of state of the judiciary remains on course,” Sereno told the 25th national convention of the Regional Trial Court Clerks of Court Association of the Philippines held at the Manila Hotel.


By all indications, the impeachment of the Chief Justice is imminent in the House of Representatives, a spokesperson for Sereno, Josa Deinla, told the Inquirer.

“After all, the congressmen and Speaker [Pantaleon] Alvarez had been saying that the proceedings at the committee on justice are nothing but a formality,” Deinla said.

Fair trial

She expressed confidence that the Senate would treat Sereno fairly. “Being given a fair shake,” Deinla said, “will be key to proving her innocence.”

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III assured Sereno on Wednesday that she would have a fair trial.

“If there is no evidence, then acquit,” Pimentel said of the senators’ attitude. “But if there is evidence, we also have to consider convicting.”


That is why, the Senate President said, it is the “burden” of the House to prove its case against Sereno.

A two-thirds vote (16 of the 23 senators) is needed to convict Sereno.


The impeachment complaint accuses Sereno, among other alleged offenses, of not filing mandatory statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) dating back a decade before she became the Chief Justice in 2012, buying a luxury vehicle with public funds and making certain decisions without consulting her fellow magistrates.

The legal team of Sereno challenged reports that she was pressured by the other justices into taking an indefinite leave or face a vote by the full court declaring her post vacant, saying her leave was a personal decision.

“We are saddened by the fact that the confidentiality of the en banc sessions has been breached,” Deinla said.

The high court was reportedly on edge after it was revealed during a Feb. 12 hearing by the House justice committee that Sereno was unable to submit her required SALNs when she applied for Chief Justice in 2012.

This led to the question of whether Sereno’s appointment was valid to begin with.

Not an option

Despite the “coordinated efforts” to make Sereno leave her post, Deinla said resignation was not an option.

“Even if she goes on leave, she plans to visit the courts and assure the staff, the employees and the judges of the judiciary that she is all right,”  Deinla said. “She does not intend to resign and she is in here for the long haul.”

At least five senators said no one could force the Chief Justice to step down.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Sereno and other Supreme Court justices could be removed only through impeachment.

Declaring the Chief Justice position vacant to remove Sereno, he said, is “unconstitutional.”

IBP reaction

Like the senators, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said Supreme Court magistrates had no power to force Sereno out of office but could try to convince her to resign.

IBP national president Abdiel Dan Fajardo said “an SC justice may only be removed by impeachment in order to ensure independence of members of the high court.”

He said justices of the high court could only exercise disciplinary authority over the justices and judges of lower courts, not against a fellow magistrate.

Vice President Leni Robredo has expressed serious concern on the “infighting” in the Supreme Court.

Robredo, a lawyer, said the wrangling in the high tribunal “will not only destroy the image of the Supreme Court but also the people’s trust in our justice system.”

Trial rules finalized

Pimentel said that Senate lawyers were now finalizing the rules that would govern the trial of Sereno. The rules will be submitted for approval of senators by next week.

Pimentel said Sen. Leila de Lima, who is detained on drug trafficking charges, may end up being physically present to cast her vote. De Lima has denied the charges.

At a meeting of the majority bloc, it was proposed that the impeachment trial be conducted from Wednesday to Friday starting at 2 p.m., according to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

Sotto said Monday and Tuesday would see the chamber devoting its time to legislation.

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While he earlier projected that the trial might be held after Congress returns on July 23, he said the trial could be held even before that date. —WITH REPORTS FROM VINCE F. NONATO AND DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.

TAGS: Josa Deinla, Senate, Supreme Court

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