Alvarez doesn’t want repeat of ‘unfair’ Corona impeachment for Sereno

Bea Cupin
Alvarez doesn’t want repeat of ‘unfair’ Corona impeachment for Sereno
‘Ayaw ko naman na mukha kaming tanga sa impeachment court,’ says the House Speaker, explaining why he want the impeachment complaints against the Chief Justice to undergo scrutiny by the House committee on justice

MANILA, Philippines – They supposedly have the numbers to bring a case against the Chief Justice straight to the impeachment court but House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez would rather take the long route, he told reporters on Tuesday, September 5.

Kung gusto lang namin i-diretso yan sa impeachment court, kayang-kaya, pwedeng gawin. [Pero] ayaw kong hawin kasi gusto ko na dito pa lang, i-hearing muna natin para makita natin kung merong ebidensiya o wala,” the Davao del Norte 2nd district representative said, when asked about the number of legislators who want to add their names as endorsers of the complaints.

(If we wanted to, we could go straight to the impeachment court. We can, we could do it. But I don’t want to do it because I want to hear the case at the level of the House to see if there is evidence or not.)

Two valid impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno have been filed before the House through the Secretary General. Both complaints have been endorsed by members of the House – 25 in one complaint and 16 in another.

According to the Rules of Impeachment, an impeachment complaint may be endorsed directly to the Senate if it has been signed by at least 1/3 of the House.

Kung gusto mo, dalawang daan eh (If you want, over 200 would sign),” quipped Alvarez, when asked if enough legislators were ready to endorse the complaint.

But Alvarez does not want to take this route, lest they look like “fools” before the Senate sitting as the impeachment court.

Recalling the Corona impeachment Alvarez said: “Mahirap niyan, tulad ng ginawa nung kay [impeached Chief Justice Corona] noon… dineretso sa impeachment court tapos nangangapa sila sa ebisensiya. Unfair naman ‘yun.”

(The process they took during the Corona impeachment, going straight to the impeachment court, is difficult. They struggled to find evidence. I think that’s unfair.)

He added: “We will be forced to prosecute na wala pa kaming hawak na matibay na ebidensiya. Ayaw ko naman na mukha kaming tanga sa impeachment court.

(We will be forced to prosecute even if we don’t have strong evidence at hand. I don’t want to look like fools before the impeachment court.)

So determined is Alvarez that the complaint undergo the scrutiny of the House committee on justice, that he said he “stopped” a few lawmakers from signing the complaint.

Lessons from the Corona impeachment 

Corona was removed from office in May 2012 after he was found guilty of betraying the public trust and committing culpable violation of the Constitution by the Senate sitting as the impeachment court.

Several times during the trial, the House prosecution – a mix of House members and private lawyers – were criticized by senators for their obviously lack of preparation.

The Corona complaint was no longer discussed by the House committee on justice – the process Alvarez wants now for the Sereno impeachment case – because the complaint already had the support of 188 legislators.

Still, Alvarez said he wants the process to begin “right away.”

Aside from the Sereno complaints, a verified impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista has been filed before the House.

His insistence on taking the long process aside, Alvarez said he believed the case against Sereno was “strong” because “certified true copies” of documents to back the complaints against her were filed alongside the complaint. Alvarez also noted that justices of the High Court were reportedly willing to stand was witnesses as well.

Once a complaint is filed before the Secretary General, it is immediately referred to the Speaker. The Speaker, within 10 session days of receiving the complaint, should then include it in the House’s Order of Business. It is then referred to the committee on justice within 3 session days.

The committee will then determine if the complaint is sufficient in form and substance, and if there is probable cause to pursue it. A majority vote is needed to decide on this.

The first valid impeachment complaint against Sereno was filed on Wednesday, August 30. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.