• House starts hearing impeach raps vs Sereno

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    The House committee on justice will start hearing the impeachment complaints filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno today to determine if these are sufficient in form and substance.

    “What you can expect tomorrow is that we will vote upon the form and the substance of the Gadon complaint and then we will proceed to determine the sufficiency in form and substance of the VACC complaint,” Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who heads the panel, told reporters on Tuesday.

    He was referring to the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon and the impeachment complaint filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) chief Dante Jimenez and Eligio Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution.

    “Kung [If] it will not hurdle those two tests then it will be dismissed. But if it does then we will now require the Chief Justice to answer or submit her answer to the two complaints, and then we will join the issues thereafter. We will start with the impeachment proceedings,” Umali said.

    Gadon accused the magistrate of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, “other high crimes” and betrayal of public trust for allegedly manipulating the Judicial and Bar Council that appoints judges; failing to truthfully disclose her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, and; using public funds to finance a “lavish lifestyle” by supposedly ordering the purchase of a bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser.

    Jimenez and Mallari accused Sereno of undermining the powers of the Supreme Court en banc in the approval of foreign trips and appointments to various offices, among others.

    According to Umali, they expect the complainants and the lawmakers who endorsed the complaints to be present.

    Insidious

    Two groups—the Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) and International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (Incite Gov)—threw their support behind Sereno.

    “We believe the impeachment complaint is an insidious attempt to immobilize and weaken the very institutions that our Constitution put in place to check on excesses in executive power. We see this as part of a bigger strategy to compromise the Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Elections – all constitutional bodies designed to serve as checks and balances of governance,” the groups said in a statement.

    They said Sereno is being targeted as an obstruction to the government’s war on drugs “because the Chief Justice was a conscientious dissenter in the acquittal of former President Arroyo’s plunder case and the burial of former President Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and because she consistently advocates and upholds the rule of law, due process and human rights.”

    “Let us support Chief Justice Sereno, who continues to uphold the values of justice and due process, the rights of people to live with dignity and in peace. We ask everyone to request their congressional representatives to be critical of the impeachment complaint and the chilling effect it has on conscientious objectors, dissenters and well-meaning citizens who speak out against the travesty of law, justice and our rights to be free from harm and live in peace. Let us remain vigilant in these troubled times and speak out so that our fragile democracy may live,” they added.

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