House justice panel to find probable cause to impeach Sereno on Thursday, chair says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 7) — The House Committee on Justice is expected to find probable cause in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday, the panel's chairperson said.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said this with certainty in an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

"The writing is on the wall," Umali said. "Walang basis ang mga members to rule otherwise [There's no basis for the members to rule otherwise.]."

Umali said he expects all 50 committee members, along with ex-officio members, to be present on Thursday to vote on probable cause in the impeachment case against Sereno.

There are 27 allegations against the chief magistrate, which fall under four grounds of impeachment: culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.

Umali said Thursday's voting, which starts at 9:30 a.m., will not take long.

"This will just be a recital of the charge, the answer, the findings, and then the vote," he said. Charges will be identified one by one, then the members will vote.

Based on the results, the committee will then put together the articles of impeachment.

Umali said he plans to submit a report to the plenary on the third week of March.

He hopes the plenary can vote on Sereno's impeachment before Congress takes a break on March 21.

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.

House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas however eyes a later timeline, probably May, as he wants to wait for the Supreme Court's decision on the Solicitor General's petition for quo warranto – which seeks to void Sereno's appointment. The high court on Tuesday gave Sereno 10 days to respond to the case.

WATCH: What is a Quo Warranto petition?

With a quo warranto petition and a looming impeachment trial, Umali said the only "honorable thing" for Sereno to do is to resign.

He noted how Sereno is strongly disliked by her associate justices, who earlier asked her to go on an indefinite leave starting March 1.

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

Sereno has denied all allegations against her but refused to step down.

"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," Sereno said in a March 2 speech.

In a statement on Monday, Sereno's camp said she is ready to face Senate trial and disprove all charges against her.

A two-thirds vote (16 out of 23 senators) is needed to convict Sereno.