House panel approves first impeach complaint against Sereno

House panel approves first impeach complaint against Sereno

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is the subject of an impeachment complaint endorsed before the House of Representatives' justice committee. SC photo/File

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:37 p.m.) — Voting 30-4, the House justice committee on Wednesday found the first impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno "sufficient in form and substance."

Most of the panel's members agreed with COOP-NATCO party-list Rep. Anthony Bravo to declare the validity of lawyer Larry Gadon’s complaint.

The four lawmakers who voted against the motion were Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene Bag-ao, Anakbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin and Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate—all members of the minority.

Villarin said the complaints against Sereno were not backed by complainant Gadon's personal knowledge, but are only based on newspaper clippings and hearsay.

“This impeachment complaint should be supported by evidence and not bare allegations of a news report,” Villarin said.

But committee chairperson Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas—allies of President Rodrigo Duterte—asserted that Gadon’s complaint are backed by authentic documents. They noted certified copies from the Supreme Court and the chief magistrate's statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

If the complaint against Sereno is "sufficient in form and substance," articles of impeachment will be drafted and presented to the House for voting.

The grounds for the impeachment cases against the chief justice include culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust. She is accused of using public funds to purchase a luxury vehicle for personal use.

Twenty five solons endorsed Gadon’s complaint. Gadon, a legal counsel of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was a losing senatorial candidate. He is now president of the PDU30 Constitutional Reform Toward Federalism, a group supportive of Duterte and his charter change agenda.

The panel is also set to scrutinize the second impeachment complaint against Sereno, this time filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, an advocacy group supportive of Duterte's controversial drug war.

ALSO READ: Impeachment against Sereno raises political questions

The justice committee, after hearing and by a majority vote of all its members, shall submit a resolution within 60 days. The resolution will then be calendared for consideration by the House within 10 session days.

A vote of at least one-third of all House members is necessary either to affirm a favorable resolution with the articles of impeachment of the committee or override its contrary resolution. This translates to at least 98 members of the House given there are 292 congressmen at present.

The Senate has the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.

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