House panel OKs articles of impeachment vs Sereno

MANILA, Philippines – Voting 33-1, the House committee on justice approved the committee report containing the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The vote took place on Monday, March 19, days before Congress is scheduled to take a two-month break.

After a little over an hour of deliberation, the committee agreed to put forward 6 articles of impeachment against Sereno, the second chief justice in 6 years to face impeachment by the House and a trial before the Senate.

Only one legislator present, Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte voted against the committee report.

Why this matters: The Monday vote is the culmination of months of deliberations at the committee level. The committee had earlier voted to find the complaint against Sereno sufficient in form, substance, and grounds.

It spent close to 6 months of deliberation on probable cause in the complaint, with hearings that featured testimony from no less than Sereno’s colleagues in the High Court. (READ: Umali: Duterte has no hand in Sereno impeachment)

It has not been pretty both for Sereno and the Supreme Court in general, with associate justices accusing her of manipulation, disrespect for the en banc, and even treason. (READ: Sereno tries to balance self-defense, healing wounds in SC)

What happens next: Now that the committee has approved a report recommending Sereno’s impeachment, it will be forwarded to the plenary for voting.

The Committee on Rules, chaired by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, will decide when the committee report will be included in the order of business for plenary session. He has said in the past that this could happen in May 2018, when session resumes, at the earliest or even in October 2018.

A one-third vote from all House members is needed to approve the committee report and therefore, impeach Sereno. The complaint will then be forwarded to the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.

The House will then form a prosecution team, composed of both legislators and private lawyers.

Senators, acting as judges in the trial, will decide to either acquit or convict Sereno. –