Three more SC justices to testify in Sereno impeachment hearing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13) — Three Supreme Court justices are set to face a House panel to testify on the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

House Justice Committee chair Rey Umali said Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, and Samuel Martires will shed light on the allegations against Sereno, as the committee resumes its hearing on Monday, January 15.

Sereno is facing a complaint based on four grounds for impeachment: culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes.

Umali said Bersamin will answer questions on resolutions supposedly issued by Sereno without en banc approval.

While Peralta will discuss Sereno's alleged manipulation of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) and the rules and procedures of the Supreme Court.

Among the grounds for impeachment filed against Sereno was her alleged exclusion of Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza on the JBC shortlist, even though he already had the needed votes.

Martires, Umali said, will talk about the delay in the release of retirement benefits of judges and justices.

"These are important kasi again, this will somehow substantiate 'yung mga aspect ng transgression ng collegial nature ng Supreme Court. (These) will help strengthen the position of the prosecution if they would support what has been said," Umali said.

Umali said his committee also invited Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who begged off from attending the hearing due to lack of personal knowledge on the issues against Sereno.

READ: Justice Carpio refuses to testify in Sereno impeachment hearing

The Justice committee will study whether it will accept Carpio's refusal to attend the hearing.

Meanwhile, impeachment complainant Larry Gadon expressed confidence that the House of Representatives will impeach Sereno.

"Naghahamon na nga ako ng pustahan eh...Right now, I can take the bet...The testimony of justices themselves, sobrang tibay. Maliwanag na maliwanag ang culpable violation ng Constitution," Gadon said.

[Translation: I'm already betting...Right now, I can take the bet...The testimony of justices themselves are really solid. Her culpable violation of the Constitution is very clear.]

A member of the Justice Committee, ABS Party-list Representative Eugene De Vera said aside from the justice's testimonies, it is also important to assess the motive behind why some justices turned against Sereno.

"Hindi ko naman tatanggalin din yung pag-iisip na baka masama lang ang loob o dahil na-bypass sila...Baka kaya sila nag-a-appear ngayon, pwedeng to get back at the Chief Justice," De Vera said.

[Translation: I can't dismiss the thought that maybe they just have bad blood or because they were bypassed...Maybe they are appearing now just to get back at the Chief Justice.]

Associate Justices Noel Tijam, Teresita de Castro, and Francis Jardeleza, and retired Associate Justice Arturo Brion testified against Sereno in the impeachment hearings last year.

Sereno has denied all allegations against her.

Umali said the House Justice Committee hopes to finish the impeachment hearings against Sereno by the end of February.