Sereno asks Congress to speed up impeachment case

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 2) — An unfazed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno challenged lawmakers to finally start an impeachment trial at the Senate, as she chided critics for a "terribly injurious spectacle" to oust her.

In a rare occasion, the Chief Justice publicly talked about her impeachment case at an event at the University of Baguio on Friday, devoting the next five minutes of her strongly worded speech to address moves to remove her from office.

"I do not owe anyone the duty to resign. I owe the people the duty to tell my story," she said.

"I ask only one thing from the political leaders. Only one thing. Give me my day in the Senate impeachment court or admit that there is no probable cause," she added.

During the open forum, Sereno was asked about the constitutionality of a chief magistrate being asked to go on indefinite leave.

READ: SC: 13 justices wanted Sereno to go on indefinite leave

Sereno refused to answer, but challenged Congress to start an impeachment trial instead.

"Wag na nating gatungan ang hindi na dapat gatungan. So focus na lang ako sa (Let's not add to it. I will just focus on the) impeachment trial which I think will be in all probability happening," she said.

"And if there's in fact a finding of probable cause ang hihingin ko naman sunod sa senado eh pakibilisan na po. Simulan na natin (What I'll ask Senate next to is to please hurry. Let's get it started)," she added.

As an impeachable official, she said the only way to remove her from office is through Congress. If at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives vote to impeach Sereno, the complaint would go to trial at the Senate.

Impeachment hearings 'agonizingly long'

"Allow me to make a call for everyone to respect the impeachment process by allowing it to take the only allowed course under the Constitution," Sereno said.

But she also criticized the justice panel for its "agonizingly long proceedings," which began in September 2017. House Committee on Justice Chair Reynaldo Umali at the time said the hearings may take up to a month, but it took them six months as the panel is set to vote on probable cause next week.

In the impeachment case, Sereno is accused of violating the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes which are grounds for impeachment under the Constitution.

Sereno said the impeachment complainants themselves have shown how uncertain they were of the evidence against her by calling for her resignation.

"If they were so sure of their evidence even to the point of perjuring themselves with baseless accusations - that they can prove that I committed a harvest of sins against the people - why not bring it to the Senate?" Sereno said.

Instead, Sereno said the critics resorted to various actions to malign her, such as calling on the Solicitor General to question her appointment at the Supreme Court, and filing cases against officials of the high court and the Judicial and Bar Council.

READ: House Speaker: Sereno's appointment can be questioned before SC  

Lawyer Oliver Lozano on Friday filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to nullify Sereno's appointment " to preserve the integrity of the judiciary and public faith in the justice system."

Larry Gadon, the lawyer who filed the impeachment case against Sereno, earlier threatened to file criminal charges against 12 other Supreme Court officials if Sereno would not resign by March 1.

READ: Lawyer threatens criminal charges vs. other SC officials if Sereno won't resign  

Sereno did not step down, but took an indefinite leave starting March 1 at the request of 13 Supreme Court justices.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.