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Alvarez: House will not rush impeach raps vs Sereno

Alvarez said he wants to take the long process of scrutinizing the ouster complaints against the chief justice. File

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Monday said he would would rather that lawmakers take the time to scrutinize the ouster complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno instead of rushing to transmit them to the Senate for trial.

Alvarez claimed the House majority has the numbers to send the impeachment cases straight to the Senate but he wants the House to look into the complaints since the House will take the role of prosecution in the trial.

"I want to be fair, na bago natin iyan dalhin doon, na i-transmit sa impeachment court, kailangan sigurado tayo dito sa ebidensya natin to make sure that it can stand trial in an impeachment court,” Alvarez said on CNN Philippines’ “The Source.”

“Halimbawa, tinransmit ko iyan doon [na] wala naman kaming ebidensya, anong nangyari doon sa impeachment ni CJ (Chief Justice) Corona? Nahihirapan sila, nagmukha silang g*** doon sa impeachment trial dahil nga doon pa lang sila naghahagilap ng ebidensiya and they ended up convicting CJ Corona by mere violation noong SALN niya,” he added.

Government officials are required to disclose their wealth in yearly Statements of Assets, Liabilities and net Worth. In 2012, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, decided that Corona had failed to do so.

Two impeachment complaints against Sereno have been filed and duly endorsed by lawmakers in the House.

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The first complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon gained 25 endorsements, while the second ouster bid filed by Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Eligio Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution had 16 endorsements.

The grounds for the impeachment cases against the chief justice include alleged culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

READImpeachment against Sereno raises political questions

Lessons from Corona trial

According to the Rules of Impeachment, a complaint may be endorsed directly to the Senate if it has been signed by one-third of all the members of the House, or 98 members.

“But I do not want to do what the previous administration did to those impeachment cases. Like what they did kay CJ Corona, kaagad-agad trinransmit doon sa Senado. That was a question of numbers, play of numbers,” the House Speaker said.

Corona was ousted from his office after senator-judges in 2012 found him guilty of betraying public trust and committing culpable violation of the Constitution for his failure to disclose some of his alleged properties and bank accounts in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

The House prosecution was criticized by senators for a perceived lack of preparation.

Corona’s complaint was no longer probed by the House Committee on Justice because it already had the support of 188 solons.

Corona was the third government official to be impeached, following former President Joseph Estrada and former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

Corona died last year.

Strong evidence

The legislator from Davao del Norte said the complaints against Sereno have strong evidence, citing the certified true copies of documents supporting the allegations.

Gadon claimed that at least six justices in the Supreme Court are willing to testify against Sereno.

Given the Justice committee might call Sereno to attend House hearings, it would be a proper forum for her to “refute all the allegations and defend herself,” Alvarez said.

The House will tackle the impeachment complaints against Sereno on Wednesday, while the complaint against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista was for next week.

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