Umali: No 'small lady' in Sereno impeachment
MANILA, Philippines – Reynaldo Umali remains thankful for a "small lady" who supposedly handed over to legislators back in 2012 bank documents that helped convict and remove from office then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
But nearly 6 years later, Umali is more than proud and confident that there will be no need for a "small lady" when the House faces the Senate impeachment court for the conviction of Corona's immediate successor, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The two impeachments are worlds apart – at least in terms of the process the House went through. While Corona was instantly impeached by the House when more than one-third of legislators endorsed the complaint, the Sereno impeachment went through the entire process under the committee.
"I would say that we were not prepared to litigate at that point in time because we did not have the evidence as yet, unlike now where we have complete evidence," Umali said in a Rappler Talk interview.
The committee is set to vote on the articles of impeachment on Monday, March 19, after it decided that the Larry Gadon complaint against Sereno was sufficient in form, substance, and grounds, and had probable cause.
Umali recalled that the "small lady" during Corona's impeachment came at a crucial time – when the prosecution panel, composed of House members and private prosecutors, were being "castigated and pilloried" because of the poorly-crafted impeachment complaint and their apparent lack of evidence to back it up.
Then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, sitting as the impeachment court presiding justice, warned prosecutors that they would dismiss the complaint if they failed to produce evidence.
"When we got these documents… that changed the ball game. All of a sudden, people became interested again in the impeachment trial," he recalled.
In contrast, the House committee spent over 7 months discussing the complaint against Sereno. Justice committee hearings have thus far featured testimony from members of the Supreme Court, including associate justices.
"This is different. In fact... this is more on the fitness. This is more on the psychiatric and psychological and mental make-up of the chief justice in leading the Supreme Court," said Umali. – Rappler.com