Impeachment cases vs. Sereno, Bautista now at House Committee on Justice

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) — The impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Commission on Elections Chairman Andy Bautista are now in the House Committee on Justice.

Committee Chairman Rey Umali said hearings on the complaints could begin on September 8th, but it's unclear which one will go first.

"It doesn't matter whether we start with Chief Justice Sereno or Andy Bautista, kasi matter of days lang yan [because it could just be a matter of days]," he said.

If the committee decides the complaints are "sufficient in form and substance," the officials will be asked to respond in writing. In Sereno's case, the two complaints will be taken up individually.

Another hearing will then be held to see if there is probable cause to impeach the respondents. At this stage, Sereno and Bautista will be invited to the impeachment proceeding.

Recalling the impeachment of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, Umali says it's important to determine a strong case against an official.

"Mahirap [It's difficult] in the sense that we had to ask the senate impeachment court for subpoena and hindi namin nakuha iyon [and we weren't able to get that]...these things we can do now because we have subpoena powers to compel witnesses to attend and produce the documents needed,"  he explained.

The seven members of the Makabayan bloc in the House are not inclined to back the complaint against Sereno. To do so is a step towards a dictatorial government, they said.

"If the ultimate objective of this impeachment complaint is to complete a dictatorial intention of the government, we will never support, we will oppose any attempt to complete the process of dictatorship," Representative Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis Party list said.

Umali says the committee has 60 session days to finish the impeachment proceeding – but this can be cut short if the concerned official resigns.

Liberal Party member endorses Sereno impeachment complaint

Representative Edgar Mary Sarmiento of the 1st district of Samar, a member of the Liberal Party (LP), has backed the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice.

This prompted the party to issue a statement, saying that while the LP "recognizes the right of its members to take a position on issues, Representative Sarmiento could have consulted the party leadership before making such an important decision."

The statement also said the party has "yet to firm up its position on the matter."

Sereno is facing two impeachment complaints: one from the advocacy groups Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, and another from lawyer Larry Gadon.

The petitioners anchored their case on five grounds, citing culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

READ: Critics lodge impeach rap vs. Chief Justice Sereno

An impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Andy Bautista was filed on grounds of betrayal of public trust and violation of the Constitution.

READ: Impeachment complaint filed against Comelec chairman

CNN Philippines correspondent Anjo Alimario and digital producer Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.