(UPDATE2 – 2:43 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee on Justice has approved the report and the accompanying articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The vote was 33-1 during the panel’s meeting on Monday, March 19.
Quezon City Representative Kit Belmonte was the lone dissenter.
In the articles of impeachment, the top magistrate was accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, betraying public trust, corruption, and other high crimes.
The allegations against Sereno in the same articles include the following:
(1) Non-filing and non-disclosure of her sworn statements of assets, liabilities and net worth that is purportedly tantamount to culpably violating the Charter and betraying public trust
(2) Betraying public trust by misusing a total amount of ₱18 million of public funds thereby “manifesting her grandiose sense of self-importance,” which included the purchase of a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser costing more than ₱5 million as the vehicle for the chief justice; the hiring of Helen Macasaet as consultant with “excessive compensation” totaling to more than P11 million “in violation of the procurement law,and the selection of Shangri-La Boracay as the venue for the 3rd ASEAN Chief Justices Meeting “without the conduct of proper canvassing.”
(3) Culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and/or other high crimes when she
arrogated unto herself the powers reposed upon the Supreme Court as a collegial, deliberative and consultative body by issuing and causing to be issued Resolutions and Orders without the approval of, or contrary to what was agreed upon by the Supreme Court en banc, “through acts of misrepresentation and
manipulation showing a pattern of deception”
(4) Culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and/or other high crimes when she
deliberately and maliciously abused her position as the Chief Justice and ex officio Chairperson of the Judicial and Bar Council
(5) Culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust when she deliberately undermined and violated the principles of separation of powers among the three branches of government by interfering with the investigation conducted by the House of Representatives, in aid of legislation, on the misuse of ₱66.45-million tobacco funds in Ilocos Norte by issuing a Joint Statement with the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals asking the House of Representatives to reconsider its show cause Oorder against three associate justices of the Court of Appeals, and thereafter directing the CA Justices to question any order issued by the House of Representative and to elevate the matter to the Supreme Court
(6) Betrayal of public trust when she willfully and deliberately failed to comply with her oath of office by “tyrannical abuse of discretionary power”
RULES PANEL HAS 10 DAYS
The approved committee report will be sent to the Committee on Rules, which has 10 days to include it in the Order of Business for voting in plenary.
If at least one-third of the 292-member chamber vote for the Articles of Impeachment, then Sereno is deemed impeached. The Articles of Impeachment will be transmitted to the Senate for trial.
Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, justice committee chairperson, expressed confidence the majority of the congressmen will impeach Sereno.
“I don’t see any reason why the plenary will not support the committee on this matter because we have followed the process,” he said.
“If you look at the vote earlier, 33-1, and the votes before that have always been lopsided, then we can safely conclude that the plenary will overwhelmingly approve this committee report and the accompanying Articles of Impeachment,” Umali added.
A quo warranto petition is also pending at the Supreme Court in connection with Sereno’s alleged questionable appointment.
Umali said if this is resolved and Sereno is removed as a result of the quo warranto before trial begins, then the Senate trial would no longer push through.
BELOW, FULL TEXT OF THE DRAFT ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT:
BELOW, THE COMMITTEE REPORT ON CJ SERENO IMPEACHMENT: