MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Will another Supreme Court (SC) chief justice be impeached?
A group whose founder and president is a staunch supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, August 2, led the submission of an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to the House of Representatives.
The complaint, however, has not yet been endorsed by any lawmaker. For an impeachment complaint to be considered officially filed, it must get a lawmaker’s endorsement.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Incorporated (VPCI) on Wednesday said Sereno should be impeached on the following grounds:
- Culpable violation of the Constitution “for issuing an administrative order creating the new Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) and re-opening the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) in Western Visayas in the absence of an authority from the court en banc”
- Culpably violating the constitutional provision that “appointive government officials shall not hold another public post as provided for by law, in appointing Atty Solomon Lumba as her Staff Head II”
- Culpably violated the Constitution “for appointing Atty Brenda Jay Mendoza as Philippine Mediation Center Office chief by mere memorandum which was not referred to the court en banc for its consideration”
- Culpably violated the Constitution “for granting to members of her staff travel allowances for foreign travel charged to the Supreme Court funds without court en banc approval”
- Betrayal of public trust “through inexcusable negligence, for sitting on the applications for the posts of Supreme Court Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief Attorney which have been vacant for 3 years and 8 months and the two positions for Assistant Court Administrator which have been vacant for 4 years and 6 months”
The VACC was represented by founding chairman and president Dante Jimenez, a Duterte supporter and in-kind campaign contributor. Vanguard, meanwhile, was represented by its president, Eligio Mallari.
“We have enough proof to substantiate all the allegations. The best evidence came from the court itself,” said VACC lawyer Manuelito Luna.
A second impeachment complaint from lawyer Larry Gadon, who once represented former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2015, was also supposed to be filed on Wednesday.
Gadon has not filed his complaint against Sereno yet, but said on Wednesday that he spoke to lawmakers about it. He refused to identify those lawmakers.
The president, the vice president, members of the SC, members of constitutional commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office via impeachment.
Impeachable offenses include culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.
If an impeachment complaint gets an endorsement from a legislator, it will then be referred to the House Speaker. He is expected to include it in the House’s order of business.
It is then referred to the House committee on justice, which determines if the complaint is sufficient in form and substance, and if there is probable cause to pursue it. A majority vote of justice committee members will be needed to decide there is probable cause.
The committee will then issue a formal resolution to the House plenary. If there is probable cause, the Articles of Impeachment are also submitted via resolution. The complaint will be endorsed to the Senate once it gets a go-signal from at least one-third of House members.
It’s the Senate which will try and decide all cases of impeachment via trial. A two-thirds vote from senators is needed to convict an impeachable official.
In May 2012, the Senate found then Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty of betraying public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
During Corona’s impeachment, both chambers of Congress were dominated by allies of then President Benigno Aquino III. The administration then was accused of railroading the impeachment and bribing legislators for the vote.
The Senate and the House are now dominated by legislators who are members of or are allied with Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). – Rappler.com