Impeachment endorsements have 'imprint of House leadership' – lawmaker

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez may have given congressmen his blessing to endorse the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said "administration solons have been asked to sign onto this complaint" to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

"For me, this has the imprint of the leadership... [The] VACC complaint, it was there, it hasn't been endorsed yet, and then suddenly it has signatures," Baguilat said on CNN Philippines' The Source.

"'Pag [When it comes to] signatures, it means it has the imprimatur of the leadership. On the other hand, there may be some of our colleagues who want to have a fair hearing," he added.

Two impeachment complaints have been filed: the first, by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution on August 2, endorsed a month later by 16 congressmen; the second, by Attorney Larry Gadon on August 30, endorsed by 25 congressmen.

Both impeachment complaints against Sereno may be consolidated, Baguilat said.

However, House Speaker Alvarez said that he ordered other congressmen who wanted to endorse either complaint, not to sign it, because he does not want the complaint to be sent straight to the Senate without being deliberated on the House justice committee and put forth in a vote by a plenary session of the lower house.

"We will be forced to prosecute na wala kaming hawak na matibay na ebidensiya. Ayoko naman magmukha kaming tanga sa impeachment court," Alvarez told reporters at the lower house on Tuesday.

An impeachment complaint needs one third of the total 297 congressmen, or 98 endorsers, to head straight to the Senate.

Baguilat questioned the motives behind the impeachment complaints. He pointed out that there were also impeachment complaints against Vice President Leni Robredo and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, which have not yet been endorsed.

"It so happens that these three outspoken women, gutsy, very independent-minded, have been critical-or at least have said statements that could be construed as critical-to the administration," said Baguilat.

"Promoters... of these impeachment cases are really identified with this administration. So parang ang nangyayari [it seems that], if you say something against the President, seemingly you're construed as oppositionist, kakasuhan ka [you get sued]."

 

When asked if he thought Sereno's impeachment complaint will get votes from the House, Baguilat said, "If the leadership says so."

Apart from Robredo and Morales, Commission on Elections Chairman Andy Bautista also faces an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives.

SALN heaviest accusation

Baguilat said the accusation that Sereno withheld P37 million in income from her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) was the heaviest count against her.

"I think the Chief Justice has to prepare her defense on the SALN allegation. The others... these are administrative issues, can be explained. If ever there was a mistake or misdemeanor, are these grave enough for her to be impeached," said Baguilat.

"But the SALN, batay nga sa kasaysayan ng [based on the history of] impeachment, that's very important," he added.

Baguilat took note that former Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached because of issues surrounding his SALN declarations.

Gadon said Sereno failed to disclose P37 million in lawyers' fees in her SALN upon appointment to the Supreme Court.

The fees were supposedly earnings from serving as legal counsel to the government during its case against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. in 2003.

Related: De Castro, two more justices to testify against Sereno - impeachment complainant

Baguilat said his Liberal Party and other members of the opposition within the House of Representatives have yet to come up with a united stance regarding the impeachment case against Sereno.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.