MANILA, Philippines – With documentary evidence to back up the allegations and the possible testimony of two Supreme Court magistrates, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez believes in the strength of the two impeachment complaints against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and said it should be started at once.
“There are certified true copies in support of those allegations,” he told reporters when asked about how strong the evidence are against Sereno. “From what I’ve heard, there are also Justices who will testify.”
The Speaker said he would immediately refer the complaints to the committee on rules, which will, in turn, refer it to the committee on justice for the hearings.
He said the justice committee can begin the proceedings right away after the plenary deliberation of the 2018 budget. The House intends to finish the budget discussions this week.
Two impeachment complaints have been referred to the Office of the Speaker. The first was filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon on Wednesday, August 30, endorsed by 25 House members. The second complaint was filed by Dante Jimenez and Eligio Mallari on Monday, September 4, and endorsed by 16 congressmen.
Both complaints alleged that Sereno committed culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayed public trust.
There is another impeachment complaint awaiting referral to the justice committee, this time against Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista. It was endorsed by three lawmakers.
Alvarez preferred that the complaint against Sereno be deliberated first at the committee on justice to see if it could stand trial in an impeachment court.
Under the Rules on Impeachment of the House, a complaint is deemed filed if it gets at least one endorsement from a House member. If one-third of the membership of the House sign the complaint, it will go straight to the Senate, which will sit as an impeachment court, for trial.
In 2012, the impeachment compliant against then Chief Justice Renato Corona gathered enough signatures, which sent it directly to the Senate for trial. Corona was convicted by the impeachment court and ousted.
“If we wanted it to go straight to the impeachment court, we do that, but let’s have it heard first, whether the evidence can stand trial in an impeachment court,” Alvarez said.
“During the Corona impeachment, the prosecution was groping for evidence. That would not look nice,” he added.
Asked if he thinks impeaching the Chief Justice would lead to a constitutional crisis, Alvarez said: “It’s far-fetched. Why constitutional crisis? . . . (Impeachment) is a process provided for in the Constitution.”
As to reports that some congressmen were being coerced to sign off on the impeachment complaint, Alvarez said, “Not true. Bring them here. They’re concocting tales.”
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