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Sereno vows to disprove allegations in impeachment case

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has 10 days to formally respond to the allegations against her. File

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno on Friday vowed to disprove the allegations against her being used to seek her removal from office after receiving an official copy of the impeachment charge from the House of Representatives as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez defended his chamber's action from criticisms that it is using impeachment cases to stifle dissent.

The House of Representatives justice panel, voting 30-4, on Wednesday deemed the impeachment complaint against Sereno filed by lawyer Larry Gadon, a defeated senatorial candidate under the Marcos-era Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, as "sufficient in form and substance."

Gadon wants to remove Sereno for her alleged breaches of the law and public trust.

The panel threw out the other two cases against Sereno, who was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III the Senate convicted impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Sereno has always been a "staunch" defender of the judiciary and our democracy, according to Carlo Cruz, the chief magistrate's spokesman. She has exercised her function with competence, integrity and independence, Cruz added.

"We confirm that the secretary general of the House Committee on Justice has served a copy of the impeachment complaint to the Office of the Chief Justice," Cruz said in a media statement.

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READ: Sereno calls for impartiality in tackling impeachment rap

The chief justice has ten days to respond to Gadon's complaint in which she is expected to vigorously deny all the allegations against her.

"In her answer, she will explain why the complaint must fail," Cruz said.

Speaker: House only doing its job

Alvarez said that the House was just doing its job in conducting hearings on impeachment cases filed before chamber.

"Hindi naman sa amin nanggaling yung impeachment complaint," he said, adding that they would be remiss in their duties if they would not process moves to remove impeachable officers.

"Huwag bigyan ng ibang kulay yung pag-process namin ng impeachment complaint. Wala kaming magagawa dyan e trabaho namin yan," he added and accused those claiming that these moves were meant to quash opposition as simply diverting from the real issue.

Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the Justice committee chairman, explained that after Sereno's reply Gadon will be given three days to file a rejoinder.

Sereno will then be given another three days to respond, according to Umali, who explained that this exchange of replies would be followed by a consolidation of all the issues against the chief magistrate to determine if there was a probable cause against her.

"Pagkatapos po niyan kung ang boto ay may probable cause ay gagawin na po namin yung articles of impeachment kasama na po yan sa pagbobotahan namin sa plenaryo patungo sa pagsasampo niyan sa Senado," Umali said in a media briefing.

The House Justice panel chairman said that they are targeting to finish the deliberations on Sereno's impeachment by the first week of October.

"Ang importante lang kung sakaling isasampa sa Senado ay matibay na matibay po yung kasong isasampa natin," he said, echoing Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who assured the chief justice of impartiality despite saying that the cases against her seemed strong enough.

The House leader said that this was just his opinion as a lawyer.

READ: Impeachment against Sereno raises political questions

Cruz also assured the public that Sereno would continue to attend to her responsibility as chief justice and would continue to pursue judicial reforms despite battling her efforts to remove her from office.

During the deliberations on the impeachment case against Sereno, opposition members of Congress tried to have the complaint junked.

The four who tried to block the impeachment against Serene were Reps. Tom Villarin of Akbayan, Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, Edcel Lagman of Albay and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna.

READ:  Alejano: House 'consistently inconsistent' in tackling impeachment cases

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