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Two impeachments? Alvarez says House ready

MANILA, Philippines – Can the House of Representatives handle two impeachment cases at the same time?

If House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’ pronouncements are to be believed, this shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Speaking to media on Wednesday, August 30, Alvarez said the impeachment complaint filed against Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista is “being processed” by the committee on justice, to check if it has adequate form and substance.

A verified impeachment complaint endorsed by at least 3 legislators was filed against the embattled Bautista on August 23, for supposedly failing his job on two instances. First, his failure to prevent and his proper response to the breach of Comelec data last year; and second, for allegedly failing to be truthful in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

In early August, a group led by supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte, filed an impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. This complaint, however, was not endorsed by any lawmaker.

Another impeachment complaint against Sereno is expected to be filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. This time, lawmakers are expected to endorse it, as confirmed by Alvarez himself.

Sa totoo? Marami na. Kaya lang sabi ko time muna, tingnan muna natin yung ebidensya kasi ayaw ko naman yung magmumukha tayong katawa-tawa doon sa impeachment court. Pupunta tayo roon pero hindi tayo handa, di ba?” he said, when asked if members of the House had expressed plans to support the Sereno impeachment complaint.

(Truthfully? A lot. But I said, let’s wait. Let us see if the evidence is there because I don’t want us to look like fools before the impeachment court. We can’t just go there unprepared, right?)

Alvarez, however, clarified that they have yet to talk about the complaint itself while saying that they “need to process it” once filed.

House Majority Floor Leader Representative Rodolfo Fariñas had earlier advised Gadon to find better documents to back up his complaint.

The High Court later allowed the release of documents to both Gadon and the groups who wanted Sereno impeached.

Once a valid complaint is received by the House Secretary General, it is referred to the House Speaker who will then include it in the House’s Order of Business. It will then be referred to the committee of justice, which will determine if the complaint is sufficient in form and substance and if there is probable cause to pursue it through a majority vote. (FAST FACTS: How does impeachment work?)

A resolution is forwarded to the House plenary. If there is probable cause, the resolution will include the Articles of Impeachment. If one-third of the House votes in favor of the resolution, it will be forwarded to the Senate. The Senate will then sit as the impeachment court. 

The last time the Philippines saw an impeachment unfold was in 2012, during the trial of then Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona. He was found guilty and eventually removed from office for failing to disclose certain properties in his SALN.

Both Sereno and Bautista are appointees of Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. Sereno’s was appointed in 2012 and is not set to retire until July 2030, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. Bautista, meanwhile, was appointed in 2015 and is schedule to step down from the post in February 2022.

Corona was appointed by former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2010, just before the presidential elections. He died in April 2016. –