Probable cause in Sereno complaint? 'Sobra-sobra,' says Alvarez

MANILA, Philippines – Although the House committee on justice will still hold more hearings to determine probable cause in an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez thinks it's there, as clear as day.

"Sa tingin ko, sobra-sobra (In my opinion, it's very obvious)," said Alvarez on Tuesday, December 12, when asked if he personally thinks there is probable cause to pursue the complaint and therefore, recommend Sereno's impeachment.

Determination of probable cause is the last step before the committee finally votes on whether to reject the complaint or impeach Sereno. The committee report will then be forwarded to the House plenary, which can either vote to reject or accept the report.

If at least one-third of the House vote in favor of a report that recommends the Chief Justice's impeachment or against a report that recommends the rejection of the complaint, Sereno will be impeached. The case will then go up to the Senate, sitting as the impeachment court. (READ: FAST FACTS: How does impeachment work?)

"Ayoko lang mag-ano dahil ayaw ko pangunahan ang committee pero lahat tayo nakapanood, napanood natin kung ano sinabi ng mga nag-testify... siguro naman malinaw na siguro para makita ng sambayanan na talagang merong laman 'yung impeachment complaint," said Alvarez.

(I don't want to comment because I don't want to get ahead of the committee but all of us saw what those who testified said. Maybe by now it's clear to the entire country that the impeachment complaint really has basis.)

During the final impeachment committee hearing for 2017, 4 associate justices of the Supreme Court (SC), 3 of them incumbent, stood as witnesses for the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. The 4 justices' testimonies went beyond what was expected, as they detailed Sereno's alleged "transgressions" in making decisions without the SC en banc's knowledge.

Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, whose inclusion in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) shortlist was blocked by Sereno, accused the Chief Justice of treason years after she had hinted at his disloyalty to the country.

Alvarez pointed out that treason cannot be committed when the country is not at war, but said Sereno's actions could fall under betrayal of public trust, which is an impeachable offense. (READ: Alvarez: Sereno impeachment a constitutional, not political, process)

The committee will resume hearings in January 2018, and will likely put the matter to a vote by then. (READ: Impeachment committee question: Is Sereno still fit to hold office?– Rappler.com