House Speaker: Impeaching Chief Justice 'possible'

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) — Impeaching Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is possible, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Tuesday.

When Alvarez was asked if he has enough congressmen to sign the complaint, he replied, "Eh kung gusto mo, 200 meron eh [If you want, I'll even have 200.]"

Alvarez explained there is  sufficient evidence, as well as witnesses to convince lawmakers Sereno should be removed from her post. 

"Matibay kasi may mga certified true copy in support of those allegations. Tapos what I've heard may mga magte-testify din na justices. Mabigat 'yun," he said.

[Translation:The evidence is strong because there are certified true copies in support of those allegations. I've also heard justices would testify. That's serious.]

Two impeachment complaints were filed against Sereno for betrayal of public trust, corruption, and violation of the Constitution.

The first, filed by advocacy groups Volunteer Against Crime and Corruption and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, focused on Sereno's alleged misdeclaration of her Statements of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth, and questionable expenses.

Read more: Critics lodge impeach rap vs. Chief Justice Sereno

The second, filed by Atty. Larry Gadon claims she abused her authority over the Supreme Court En Banc. 25 solons backed the complaint.

Read more: 25 solons endorse impeach rap vs. Chief Justice Sereno

But despite support for the complaint, Alvarez told congressmen not to sign it, saying he doesn't want the complaint to go directly to the Senate without being discussed in the House Justice committee.

"We will be forced to prosecute na wala pa kaming hawak na matibay na ebidensya. Ayoko naman magmukha kaming tanga sa impeachment court," he added.

[Translation: We will be forced to prosecute even if we don't have hard, substantial evidence. I don't want Congress to look foolish in the impeachment court.]

Under the Rules of Impeachment, a complaint filed by at least a third of the body, or 98 House members, may be endorsed directly to the Senate.

Senate would then sit as an impeachment court, as in the case of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached in December 2011.

House Committee on Justice Chair Rey Umali said if both complaints pass the committee level, they will consolidate and file a single article of impeachment to submit to the Senate.

Impeachment complaint a diversion?

The House Speaker spat at claims saying congressmen are being forced to sign the impeachment complaint.

"Sinong nagsabi niyan? Dalhin mo sa harapan ko. Sampalin ko.  Gumagawa sila ng kwento na hindi totoo," he said.

[Translation: Who said that? Bring them to me, I'll slap them. They're making up stories.]

Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin believes the impeachment complaints against Sereno and the one being dangled against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales are meant to quell dissent in government.

"It is part of a plan for us to just stay back and offer no resistance to all that is happening in our country," he said.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, the Sereno case is a diversionary tactic.

"Huwag dapat tayo madeflect sa tunay na issue right now: investigation sa senate ay tumutumbok na sa Davao Group," Alejano said, referring to the involvement of Presidential son Paolo Duterte and the President's son-in-law Manases Carpio in illegal shabu shipments entering the country.

[Translation: Let's not be deflected from the real issue right now: the Senate investigation that pinpoints to the Davao Group.]

Read more: Paolo Duterte, Mans Carpio to attend Senate probe