SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House committee on justice, voting 30-4 on Wednesday, found the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno sufficient in form and substance.
In his complaint, Gadon accused Sereno of corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes, which are grounds for impeachment.
Committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro), in his opening statement, cited there are two impeachment complaints filed against the Chief Justice.
The first was complaint was filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) founding chairman/president Dante Jimenez and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution president Eligio Mallari on August 15, 2017, which was subsequently endorsed by 16 House members.
The second complaint was lodged by Gadon on August 30, 2017, which was endorsed on the same day by 25 lawmakers.
Having complied with the twin requirement of filing and referral, Umali said the impeachment proceedings against Sereno is declared initiated on September 7, 2017.
On the question of sufficiency in form, Umali stressed that “the justice committee has consistently been liberal in favor of the complainants in determining sufficiency of form of the verified impeachment complaints.”
On sufficiency in substance, “the committee on justice has consistently followed the standard of individual appreciation by each member of the committee in determining whether the verified impeachment complaint is sufficient in substance,” Umali emphasized.
“After proper manifestations and debates among the members of the committee, the committee will vote on the sufficiency in substance of the verified impeachment complaint. This is where the political nature of impeachment proceedings come into play,” he said.
While there are explicit rules that should be followed, lawmakers should also remember that impeachment proceedings are political in nature, said Umali.
Umali stressed that the House of Representatives has the sole power to initiate impeachment proceedings against the impeachable officials.
“We are once again called upon to perform our constitutional mandate of demanding public accountability from the highest officials of the land. This mandate found in Article XI of the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President, the Vice President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman,” Umali said.
“As the duly elected representatives of the people, we are given the task to determine whether or not these high officials are unfit to hold their respective offices and should be removed from their positions of the highest trust,” Umali said.
Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas (1st District, Ilocos Norte) informed the committee members that the Supreme Court en banc has issued an order providing lawyer Larry Gadon copies of public and official court documents related to the complaints filed by Gadon against Sereno.
Fariñas presented certified true copies of 20 documents furnished to Gadon, among which are the list of foreign travels of all lawyers in the Office of the Chief Justice, appointment of Brenda Angeles-Mendoza, and TRO in certain cases.
Rep. Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay) said the impeachment rules interpreted and applied by the Committee on Justice in determining the sufficiency of form and substance in the impeachment complaint filed by Rep. Gary Alejano (Party-list, MAGDALO) against President Rodrigo Duterte must also be equally applied in the complaint against Sereno.
“The Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings as interpreted and applied by the Committee on Justice with respect to the sufficiency of form and substance with respect to the impeachment complaint of Honorable Alejano versus President Duterte should be employed with the same efficacy and fervor in the instant impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” Lagman said.
“What is good to liberate President Duterte should also be good to liberate the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from this impeachment complaint,” Lagman said. / ABR