De Lima to seek court OK to attend Sereno impeachment trial

Camille Elemia
De Lima to seek court OK to attend Sereno impeachment trial
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III has said he would not exclude detained Senator Leila de Lima from the voting process

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima is set to file a motion before the court to allow her to participate in the possible impeachment trial of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

De Lima said she is mandated to take part in such important proceedings. 

“Certainly, as a sitting Senator, I am mandated under the Constitution to take part in such proceedings of grave importance. My lawyers will, in due time, file the appropriate motion with the courts,” De Lima said in a note on Saturday, March 3.

De Lima said it is the Senate’s responsibility to “secure” the legitimacy and impartiality of the process, following the House’s actions and President Rodrigo Duterte’s “authoritarian bent.” She then sought her colleagues support on the matter.

“After all, if those who seek the ouster of the Chief Justice succeed in their endeavor, it will effectively open the door to the further consolidation of power in the President’s and in his party’s favor,” she said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III has said he would not exclude De Lima from the voting process on the possible trial of Sereno.

Yes, because member siya ng Senate. Who knows, malay mo, you do not disqualify just because she is detained. Kasama siya. Malay mo pagdating sa halfway or sa ending, physically [nandito] na siya,” he said on Wednesday.

(Yes because she is a member of the Senate. Who knows, you do not disqualify just because she is detained. Maybe halfway during the trial or near the end, she’s already physically here.)

De Lima welcomed the statement of Pimentel, her former client and a staunch ally of Duterte.

“I am certain that the Senate President, as a leading member of the ruling party, is quite aware that it is absolutely critical that members of the minority, such as myself, are allowed to genuinely and effectively participate in such a sensitive and potentially game-changing event in our nation’s history,” she said.

“I, therefore, hope for and anticipate the Senate President’s and the rest of my colleagues’ support for my participation therein, if and when the time comes,” she added.

Should the House vote to impeach Sereno, the Articles of Impeachment will then be endorsed to the Senate.

If Sereno is impeached by the House, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, would determine if she is guilty or innocent. Pimentel said 16 senators (two-thirds of the sitting 23 senators) are needed to either acquit or convict Sereno. If voted guilty, Sereno will have to vacate her post. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com