THE House committee on justice failed this week to finish drafting the articles of impeachment for the complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
In an interview, Chairman of the committee Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali said they decided to postpone the approval by next week.
“Hindi namin natapos yung articles of impeachment kasi hindi kami magkasundo kung ilan yung isasama,” Umali said.
Last week, a technical working group composed of the vice chairmen of the committee was created to draft the committee report and articles of impeachment and was ordered to submit it on March 14 for the panel’s approval.
The committee has found probable cause on the impeachment complaint filed by Atty. Larry Gadon.
Umali said the committee will instead meet next week, either Monday or Tuesday, to approve the draft articles of impeachment.
According to Umali the members want to have a very comprehensive articles of impeachment.
“Ang gusto ng iba comprehensive talaga to show that this is really a very strong case and I believe so too,” he said.
“We will be ready by then. When we schedule that hearing, either on Monday or Tuesday, we’re ready to present the articles of impeachment,” he added.
Prosecution panel reunion
The impending impeachment trial of Chief Justice Sereno might turn out to be a reunion of familiar faces from the trial of ex-CJ Renato Corona five years ago.
House justice committee head and possible lead prosecutor Umali dropped names of possible members of the prosecution panel that include former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
He also named lawyers Biboy Malaya, Tranquil Salvador and Dennis Manalo as among the private prosecutors. Malaya was part of the prosecution team in the Corona impeachment while Salvador and Manalo were the defense panel.
In the Corona impeachment trial, Enrile was the presiding judge being the Senate President then.
However, Umali did not specifically mention the role of Enrile in the possible Sereno trial but said the former senator will serve voluntarily.
“He (Enrile) has already expressed his willingness to be part of the team. Wala pang definition of what will be the role he has confirmed that subject to final confirmation. Voluntary lang,” Umali said in an interview.
Other lawyers, Umali added, will participate on pro-bono basis.
“For one they are litigators. I’m sure they know their law. They know their case, they know their evidence,” the solon said.
On the composition of the public prosecution team, Umali said they are looking at the Representatives who have experience in the previous impeachment trial.
During the Corona trial, among those on the prosecution panel were Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Cibac Rep. Sherwin Tugna, Pangasinan Rep. Marilyn Primicias-Agabas.
“May caucus kami, I think Wednesday. Ire-raise ko ito para matapos kami dito...Ang criteria namin is that kailangan lawyer, kailangan litigator, and preferably with experience in the past impeachment trial. Yung tatlo yun, and then discipline kasi iba-iba ito, gaya ng psychiatric, baka merong medico legal kami o kaya merong expert sa amin,” he said.
Back to jail
In a related story, opposition solon Tom Villarin said if Enrile will join the impeachment trial, he should be returned to jail for his plunder and graft hearings.
Villarin reminded Enrile that he was given temporary liberty by the Supreme Court because of his age and health condition.
“He was released by the SC on his physical condition, he was 94 years old so if he can be, meaning he is agile and can move, then perhaps he should be put back in jail in which case he can involve himself in trial while in jail,” Villarin said.