MANILA, Philippines – The House justice committee on Monday, March 19, approved the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The articles of impeachment are the formal set of charges the House will be presenting against Sereno once it faces the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.
In order for Sereno to be impeached, at least one-third of all House members should vote in favor of the committee report once it is discussed during plenary.
But why does the House committee, voting 33-1, want the Chief Justice impeached?
Here’s a summary of the articles of impeachment as approved by the panel and discussed by its chairman, Reynaldo Umali, in his opening speech:
FIRST ARTICLE: Sereno committed culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust by her failure to file and disclose assets in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), a document all public officials must file. The following circumstances were cited:
- “Misrepresentation that she is a person of proven integrity and probity” in her application for the post of Associate Justice in 2010 and Chief Justice in 2012 because she “deceived and/or misled” the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in saying she could not submit her SALNs from 1996 to 2006 because the University of the Philippines (UP) had cleared her.
- Failure to declare in her 11 filed SALNs a property in Mariveles, Bataan worth over P44 million.
- Failure to declare in her 2006 and 2009 SALNs around P13.8 million, part of P32.49 million she earned as a private lawyer in a government case against Piatco [Philippine International Air Terminals Company Incorporated] from 2004 to 2009.
- Commission of tax fraud in failing to truthfully and accurately declare her income through income tax returns from 2007 to 2009 and value-added tax returns for the years 2005-2009; and her failure to pay corresponding taxes.
SECOND ARTICLE: Sereno committed corruption and betrayed public trust in the “misuse” of P18 million in public funds. The following circumstances were cited:
- Purchase of a P5-million Toyota Land Cruiser that is “beyond the norm of the Supreme Court for the Office of the Chief Justice”.
- Hiring and engagement of Helen Macasaet as a consultant who received over P11 million in compensation, in violation of the procurement law.
- Selection of Shangri-La Boracay as the venue for the 3rd ASEAN Chief Justices Meeting without proper canvassing and arranging for a room upgrade “therein misusing an amount of more of less P3 million of government funds”.
THIRD ARTICLE: Sereno committed “culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and/or other high crimes” when she “arrogated unto herself” the powers of the Supreme Court as a collegial, deliberative, and consultative body in issuing resolutions and orders without the approval of the en banc. The following instances were cited:
Culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes
- Creation of “Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) in the guise of reopening the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) in Region 7” and making it appear as if it was approved by the en banc.
- Issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the case of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines (Senior Citizens Party List) vs. the Commission on Elections, contrary to the SC rules; and misrepresenting that the issuance of the TRO was recommended by member-in-charge Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.
- “Manipulating” the disposition of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III’s request to transfer the venue of the Maute trial to a venue outside Mindanao by “falsely making it appear” that the matter was raffled to her and that it was decided on by the en banc.
Culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust
- “Deliberately ignoring prior rulings of the Supreme Court en banc” in giving survivorship benefits to the spouses of deceased judges “by allowing her employees to question said rulings and recommend that these rulings be abandoned or overturned.” Sereno’s decision allegedly caused “undue delay” in the processing of these documents.
- Appointing Geraldine Faith Econg as head of the JDO and Brenda Jay Angeles-Mendoza as chief of the Philippine Mediation Center Office without the approval of the Supreme Court en banc.
- Deliberately failing and refusing to appoint qualified applications to several high-ranking posts in the Supreme Court.
- Ordering the release of “erroneous information” about what happened during en banc deliberations on the alleged involvement of 4 judges in the drug trade, as well as “undermining” the co-equal power of the executive by “directing” the executive secretary to file cases against the 4.
FOURTH ARTICLE: Sereno committed culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust in “deliberately and maliciously” abusing her post as Chief Justice and ex-officio chairperson of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). The following instances were cited:
- “Deliberate and malicious manipulation” of the JBC processes to exclude Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, then Solicitor General, in the shortlist of nominees, while “illegally acquiring and using a highly confidential document involving national security in the process”.
- Clustering the nominees for 6 vacant posts of Sandiganbayan associate justice without legal basis “thereby impairing the power of the President to appoint members of the judiciary.”
- Misrepresenting to the Supreme Court en banc that there were Justices who wanted to do away with the voting of recommended applicants to vacant posts in the Supreme Court.
- Manipulating the JBC process to exclude Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas-Peralta from the shortlist of nominees for the post of CA Presiding Justice.
FIFTH ARTICLE: Sereno committed corruption and betrayed public trust in “deliberately” undermining and violating the principles of separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The following instances were cited:
- “Interfering” in the House of Representatives’ probe into the alleged misuse of Ilocos Norte tobacco funds by issuing a joint statement with the CA Presiding Justice asking the House to reconsider its issuance of a show case order against 3 CA justices, and directing the CA justices to question issuances from the House and elevate matters to the Supreme Court
- “Deliberately undermining and disrespecting” the House justice committee’s proceedings against her.
ARTICLE SIX: Sereno betrayed public trust in “wilfully and deliberately” failing to comply with her oath of office by “tyrannical abuse of discretionary power.”
Read the committee report as prepared by the Justice Committee here: