SUPPORTERS of President Rodrigo Duterte trooped to the House of Representatives on Wednesday to file impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
They failed to get at least one House member to endorse the complaints, but were confident lawmakers would soon get on board after studying the grounds for impeachment.
The call to impeach Sereno was made by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) led by Dante Jimenez, Eligio Mallari of Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution and lawyer Larry Gadon.
They are accusing Sereno of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for granting allowances and other perks to herself and her staff during foreign trips, preventing lower courts from issuing warrants of arrest against Sen. Leila de Lima on drug-related charges, acquiring a P9-million bulletproof vehicle, falsifying a temporary restraining order involving the dispute over who are the legitimate party-list representatives of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines Inc., failing to declare in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) P37 million in lawyer’s fees as government counsel in the international arbitration case involving the NAIA Terminal 3, and manipulating the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council to exclude then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, allegedly for personal and political reasons, thereby curtailing the President’s power to appoint him.
“I believe in the strength of the complaint because the witnesses of her impeachable offenses are the Supreme Court justices themselves,” Jacinto Paras, a former congressman and one of the legal counsels of VACC, said.
Sereno has yet to read the complaints for impeachment against her, said court spokesman Theodore Te.
“Let’s allow her some time to read, okay? We will let media know if there’s a statement to be issued,” Te said in a text message to reporters.
The 1987 Constitution states that an impeachment complaint cannot be considered verified, meaning filed before the House of Representatives, without an endorser from the ranks of the chamber.
A single endorsement is enough to initiate impeachment proceedings.
“A lot of lawmakers want to sign [the complaint]. I have talked to a number of them, but they want to have at least 10 who will sign it so that it will look good. If they can gather enough, it could be a go by next week,” Gadon told reporters.
“The lawmakers that I was able to talk to requested for total confidentiality because they don’t want to be pressured. I had a closed-door meeting with five of them (House members), and they will be the ones who will make the rounds [to gather signatures for endorsement],” Gadon added.
This was the same reason Duterte supporters Bruce Rivera and Trixie Angeles cited in explaining why their impeachment complaint against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo in May did not have an endorser.
The Robredo complaint did not prosper as it was not endorsed by a member of the House.
VACC Chairman Dante Jimenez admitted that an endorsement would be necessary for their impeachment complaints to prosper.
“Of course, we expect the lawmakers to take a look on the merits of this case and make the necessary endorsement,” Jimenez added.
Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution said the best evidence against Sereno would be Supreme Court records.
“We can just subpoena all the Supreme Court records to prove our case,” Mallari said.
The late Renato Corona is the lone chief justice to be impeached. He was convicted by the Senate impeachment court in May 2012 for his supposed non-declaration of millions of pesos worth of assets in his SALN.
Corona died in April 2016 following complications of a heart attack.
with JOMAR CANLAS