House to resume hearing on Sereno impeachment complaint

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 10) — The hearing on the impeachment complaint against the country's top judge will continue on Monday, the 7th day of the proceedings at the Lower House.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez told CNN Philippines on Thursday he believed there was probable cause to remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from office.

Alvarez said Sereno is guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution, one of the grounds for impeachment in the complaint of lawyer Larry Gadon.

One allegation to support this was issuing a 2012 order unilaterally despite objections from other members of the Supreme Court, as testified by Associate Justice Teresita De Castro.

READ: Chief Justice denies issuing order without en banc approval

De Castro said Sereno's Administrative Order No. 175-2012 created a new office called the Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) to replace the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) in Region 7 or Central Visayas, which was supposed to be an ad hoc body only.

"The Chief Justice cannot create a permanent office. It's a legislative power," De Castro told the House Committee on Justice on November 29.

But Sereno's camp said the JDO and the RCAO are "one and the same" and the Chief Justice did not create a new office.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: House Speaker sees probable cause to impeach Sereno

The case against Sereno had its first major hurdle after a journalist denied Gadon's claim tha Justice De Castro was the source of information regarding one allegation.

In an article written by Manila Times journalist Jomar Canlas, Sereno was accused of falsifying a Temporary Restraining Order in 2013 that prevented the proclamation of certain party-list groups.

READ: Reporter denies SC justice as source in story vs. Sereno

"I hereby deny that I have intimated to Atty. Gadon that the source of facts in my article is Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro," Canlas told the lawmakers.

Canlas said he quoted many sources at the High Court for the story, but De Castro was not one of them.

Alvarez further said Sereno will commit another violation of the Constitution if she continues to snub impeachment hearings despite being invited by the panel.

"Constitutional process ang impeachment. Kailangan mo igalang yan (Impeachment is a constitutional process. You have to respect that)," Alvarez said.

Sereno faced criticism after she said she would not be attending the impeachment hearings, and insisted her her lawyers may represent her.

Gadon also accused Sereno of committing culpable violation of the Constitution when she delayed the action on petitions for retirement benefits of justices, judges, and their surviving spouses.

Sereno's camp has refuted these claims saying the new system had improved, and not stalled, the application for retirement benefits.

Sereno is also accused of corruption, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.

Her camp has dismissed the allegations as "baseless, malicious, based of conflated hearsay."

The hearings began on November 23.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Joyce Ilas and Anjo Alimario, and Digital Producers Eimor Santos and Pia Garcia contributed to this report.