• UPDATE: House justice panel finds probable cause to impeach Sereno


    Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, justice committee chairman of the House of Representatives, holds a press briefing on March 8, 2018, after the panel determined that there was probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. PHOTO BY MIA MACATIAG

    THE justice committee of the House of Representatives has found probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

    Voting 38-2 on Thursday, the committee found the evidence presented during the hearings sufficient to try Sereno for corruption, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

    Only Reps. Arlene Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands and Jose Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City voted “no.”

    The 38 who said there was probable cause to impeach Sereno were:

    The vote came after the panel declassified the discussion on the psychological exam results of Sereno, which happened during the four-hour executive session last February 28.

    “The Constitution dictates, that at the minimum, all members of the Judiciary must be persons of proven competence, integrity, probity, independence. As public officers, they must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency and with patriotism and justice and lead both lives,” said Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, justice committee chairman.

    It was Reps. Eugene de Vera of ABS party-list and Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia of Cebu who moved for a vote of probable cause on the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

    The House panel, however, has yet to draft the Articles of Impeachment that will be sent to the Senate, which will sit as a court to try the Chief Justice.

    “The vice chair of the committee is herby constituted as a small body to write the report, including the articles of impeachment,” Umali said.

    “The rules committee has 10 session days to review the articles of impeachment of Sereno,” said Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, House majority floor leader.

    Umali said earlier on Thursday that the vote would be on each charge contained in Gadon’s complaint but this did not happen.

    The committee is expected to send the Articles of Impeachment to a plenary vote within 10 days and 60 days to decide on whether or not to remove the chief justice from her post.

    At least 98 members of the House plenary are needed to impeach Sereno, the second chief justice to be ousted from office if convicted by the Senate after the late Renato Corona in 2012.

    Sereno, an appointee of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd, is the first woman chief justice and the youngest.

    She graduated as valedictorian from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1984.  WITH REPORTS FROM NICOLLE MORALES AND DANIELLE TAWAT



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