New year, same impeachment: House resumes tackling complaint vs Sereno

Bea Cupin
New year, same impeachment: House resumes tackling complaint vs Sereno
At least 3 associate justices are expected to appear before the committee as it holds its first hearing for 2018

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on justice resumed on Monday, January 15, hearings to determine probable cause in an impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The Monday hearing, held on the first day Congress will resume session, will feature key officials from the Supreme Court including several associate justices. (READ: Sereno impeachment: Cracks in the Supreme Court)

Committee chairman Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Reynaldo Umali said Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, and Samuel Martires, have all confirmed attendance. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had earlier declined the committee’s invitation to serve as a resource person.

Lawyer Larry Gadon wants Sereno – who is set to retire in 2030 yet – removed from office because she allegedly disregarded the Supreme Court en banc’s power and supposedly misused public funds, among other allegations. (READ: Sereno impeachment: RCAO, JDO, and Midas Marquez)

Umali’s timeline for the conclusion of the impeachment deliberations have moved since, yet again. He had earlier told media that he expects deliberations to end and a vote of the House plenary set by December 2017.

He later adjusted the schedule, saying hearings might end by January 2018. (READ: The year of impeachments: ‘Bastardization’ or checks and balances?)

In a text message, Umali told Rappler he expects the committee to vote on the report – on whether to impeach Sereno or dismiss the complaint – by February 2018.

The committee had earlier deemed the Gadon complaint sufficient in form, substance, and grounds. It also rejected another complaint because it was deemed insufficient in form.

The “impeachment committee,” as Umali calls it, has been the venue of unprecedented events.

In November 2017, Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro was the first to appear before the committee. It was also the first time for a member of the High Court to appear before the House in the context of an impeachment hearing.

De Castro was only the beginning, however. (READ: 4 justices testify in impeachment hearing vs Sereno)

In the hearings that followed, Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, and retired associate justice Arturo Brion, testified before the committee. (READ: Justices on Sereno ‘transgressions’: Until when will we suffer?)

All 3, including De Castro, spoke in detail about their grievances against Sereno, who was appointed to the post in 2012.

Sereno and her camp have insisted the allegations against her are either untrue or are not impeachable offenses.

The committee on justice will eventually vote to decide if they will recommend Sereno’s impeachment or reject the complaint. Once they finish the committee report, it will be taken up before the House plenary.

The House can reject or accept the committee report through a vote.

If one-third of House members accept a report recommending Sereno’s impeachment, she is deemed impeached. The complaint will then be forwarded to the Senate sitting as an impeachment court. –

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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.