‘Appear in Congress or violate Constitution’



    Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Noel Tijam on Sunday urged Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno to show up at the hearing conducted by the House Committee on Justice in connection with the impeachment complaint filed against her.

    The chief justice, being the head of the third branch of government, must respect the rule of law and the constitutional process, Tijam said in an interview with The Manila Times .

    He warned that if Sereno remained obstinate in refusing to recognize the impeachment process, she would be violating the Constitution, which SC justices are mandated to uphold and defend.

    “Impeachment is a constitutional process and a mandate enshrined in the Constitution. Justices took an oath to defend, preserve, protect the Constitution. If Chief Justice Sereno continues to ignore and continues to refuse to participate in the impeachment process, ergo, she is clearly liable for culpable violation of the Constitution,” Tijam said.

    He added that he wanted to encourage Sereno to show up at the Congress hearings “to respect and participate in the impeachment (process), and to defend herself and protect the institution.”

    Sereno, he said, should be a role model when it comes to respecting the Constitution.

    “Impeachment is not an invention of politicians. It was drafted by the framers of the Constitution. Media, which propagates the myth that impeachment is a numbers game, hence, is political and arbitrary, fails to emphasize the fact that the rule of the majority is the essence of democracy,” the magistrate stressed.

    Tijam believes that the impeachment process against Sereno is not an attack on the high court or the judiciary because the Supreme Court does not consist of the chief justice alone.

    “Impeachment is [neither]an assault on the judiciary nor an infringement on the independence of the judiciary, because it is enshrined in the Constitution. Parenthetically, when the SC strikes down acts of Congress and acts of the President and the Executive Department for being unlawful and unconstitutional, the SC is not assaulting the independence of Congress and the Executive Department because the expanded power of judicial review is enshrined in the Constitution,” Tijam pointed out.

    He said former Chief Justice Renato Corona joined the process by attending his impeachment trial.

    Tijam was one of the Supreme Court justices invited by the House of Representatives to attend the impeachment proceedings. He is scheduled to testify before the House Justice Committee on December 11.

    However, the magistrate clarified that he will appear at the House not to testify against Sereno but to shed light on certain issues.

    Tijam said he will show up in the House hearing to set an example to the members of the judiciary and the legal profession that justices know what public accountability is all about and that no one is above the law.

    “I’m going to Congress because I was invited to appear and I respect the constitutional process. I’m not appearing to testify against the chief justice but to answer questions at the Congress. I want to show the members of the judiciary and the legal profession that SC justices understand the concept of public accountability. If the SC is bold enough to discipline and sanction members of the judiciary and the legal profession, we should similarly be bold enough to face accusations of impropriety. We should not be impervious to an impeachment complaint,” Tijam said.

    The magistrate will testify on the change of venue of cases filed against members of the Maute Group. Lorenzo Gadon, who filed the impeachment complaint, accused Sereno of delaying the transfer of the criminal cases of the Maute group.

    Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd testified that he requested the cases be transferred to Metro Manila, not to Cagayan de Oro City, for security purposes.

    Sereno had asked the House panel to dismiss the impeachment complaint for lack of evidence.


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