House eyes month-long impeachment hearings for CJ Sereno

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 11) — Hearings on the impeachment case of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno may take up to a month, the House Speaker said on Monday.

"A month, definitely yes," Pantaleon Alvarez told CNN Philippines' The Source.

He added that the House would likely summon the Chief Justice "to give her a chance to refute all the allegations and defend herself."

The hearing on the case against Sereno opens on September 13, Justice Committee Chair Reynaldo Umali said in a radio interview on Sunday.

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

Under the 1987 Constitution, the Justice Committee is required to submit the resulting report and resolution from the impeachment hearings within 60 session days.

He added it was likely that three associate justices may testify at the House hearings.

Lawyer Larry Gadon, one of the impeachment complainants, revealed to CNN Philippines that three justices, including Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, were ready to speak up against Sereno.

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

Two impeachment complaints were filed against Sereno at the House of Representatives, and were endorsed by a total of 41 congressmen. The other complaint was filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

Apart from Sereno's case, the House Committee on Rules has referred another impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections Chairman Andy Bautista to the House Committee on Justice on September 7.

Alvarez said documents against Sereno were more complete -- hence the prioritization of her hearing even if the complaint against Bautista was lodged first.

Alvarez: House 'to be fair' in hearing Sereno impeachment case

The House Speaker emphasized that while they had more than enough numbers of congressmen to send Sereno's impeachment straight to the Senate, he did not want the case railroaded.

Alvarez referred to the impeachment of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012. The complaint against Corona sailed straight to Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, after garnering 188 endorsements from the lower house.

"Nagmukha silang gago sa impeachment trial... Doon pa lang sila naghahagilap ng ebidensya. And they ended up convicting CJ Corona by mere violation nu'ng SALN niya. Ayokong gawin 'yun," said Alvarez.

"I want to be fair na bago natin iyan... itransmit sa impeachment court, kailangan sigurado tayo dito sa ebidensya natin. So to make sure that it can stand trial," he added.

[Translation: They looked stupid at the impeachment trial... They only started looking for evidence there. And they ended up convicting CJ Corona by mere violation of his SALN. I don't want to do that... I want to be fair that before we take it to the impeachment court, we need to be sure of our evidence.]

When asked how many congressmen favored Sereno's impeachment, Alvarez said, "Eh kung 200 lang, kayang kaya yun... Kaya lang ayokong gawin iyan e dahil pangit."

[Translation: If it's just 200 (votes), we can easily get that... But I don't want to do that because it will get ugly.]

Corona was impeached for not fully disclosing his accounts in his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth. His removal from office was slammed by critics as part of a campaign by then-President Benigno Aquino III and his allies, who tagged Corona as corrupt and a midnight appointee by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

A vote of one-third of all the members of the House, or 98 of the 294 sitting congressmen, "shall be necessary either to affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the Committee, or override its contrary resolution," according to the 1987 Constitution.

If the votes are in, the impeachment complaint is forwarded to the Senate, where the concurrence of two-thirds of all the members is necessary.

When asked if the impeachment was a political game, the House Speaker admitted it was but stressed it was allowed under the law.

"Sa isang panig, oo [On one side, yes]," said Alvarez.

"Pero maliban doon sa pagiging [But apart from it being a] political game, remember that this process is provided for by the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines," he added.

Impeachment complaints have also been lodged against Vice President Leni Robredo and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Bautista, Carpio-Morales, and Sereno were appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III, while Robredo is a member of the Liberal Party.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.