THE House Committee on Justice will begin today the impeachment process against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno by determining whether the two verified complaints are sufficient in form and substance.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the panel chairman, said the committee will expedite its proceedings so that it can attend to a similar impeachment complaint filed against embattled Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista that will be heard next week.
“We are going to vote on the sufficiency in form and substance of the two impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Sereno,” said Umali in an interview.
The form of impeachment complaint refers to a complaint’s technical details following established methods and complainants should verify the complaint in order to pass the sufficiency in form.
The substance of the verified complaint refers to material allegations of whether or not there is a cause for impeachment and its sufficiency can be determined by the personal knowledge of the complainants or the documents submitted were culled from authentic records. Earlier, Umali said he sees the hand of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s colleagues behind the two impeachment complaints against her.
He explained that the impeachment complaints against Sereno were triggered by the intense division at the SC, which indicated she has a “shaky leadership.”
Umali also said the consolidation of the two impeachment complaints will happen during the drafting of the committee report or the Articles of Impeachment and not during the determination of sufficiency in form and sufficiency in substance.
“Wala kaming ganoong (consolidation) proseso. Pero may proseso kami n’yan after an answer is filed kasi after an answer is filed, we will conduct hearings. And under the rules, we are required to craft the articles of impeachment. So there will come a point in time that we will do that also. Pero not at the initiation stage,” said Umali.
Should the process reach the filing of answer, Umali said Sereno is required to appear before his panel. “
“(She needs to appear) after she files an answer,” said Umali.
The first complaint against Sereno endorsed by at least 25 lawmakers was filed by Gadon, president of the PDU30 Constitutional Reform to Federalism and a former lawyer of ex-President-turned Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in which he accused the Chief Justice of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption and other high crimes.
Gadon cited Sereno’s purchase of an overpriced P5.1 million brand-new and high-end 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser with a reported P4 million bulletproofing job, failure to declare in her statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN) the “exorbitant lawyer’s fees” amounting to $745,000 or P37 million, expensive travel allowances, among others.
The second impeachment complaint endorsed by 16 lawmakers was filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) founding chairman and president Dante Jimenez and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. lawyer Eligio Mallari.
It accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution when she purportedly issued an order creating the new Judiciary Decentralized Office and reopened the Regional Court Administration Office in Western Visayas in the absence of an authority from the court en banc.
Due to various issues, it also alleged that Sereno violated the Constitution and betrayed public trust.
In the case of Bautista, former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and Atty. Ferdinand Topacio filed their impeachment complaint endorsed by three lawmakers. Paras and Topacio accused the poll body chief of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over various issues.
These include the integrity of the last polls or the so-called “Comeleak” or the March 2016 hacking of the Comelec’s website that has since been described as one of the worst breaches of a government-controlled database and Bautista’s reported P1 billion ill-gotten wealth.