House Committee on Justice to vote on articles of impeachment vs. Sereno


Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18) — The House Committee on Justice is set to vote on the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday.

The panel wants to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for violations in her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), on top of six other grounds.

The voting comes after six months of hearings. It was originally scheduled on March 14, but was deferred because the committee's draft report with the articles of impeachment was not yet ready.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Friday, Justice Panel Chairperson Reynaldo Umali revealed some of the seven articles against the Chief Justice include issues on her SALN, supposed abuse of power as ex-officio Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) Chairperson, and alleged disregard for the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

READ: Ousting Sereno: House justice panel chair reveals 3 of 7 articles of impeachment

The draft report listing the articles of impeachment was made by the committee’s five chairpersons. Once it is approved by the committee, it will be submitted to the House plenary

If at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives vote to impeach Sereno, the complaint will go to trial at the Senate, where a conviction in just one article will be enough to oust the Chief Justice.

Umali said issues in Sereno’s SALN were the strongest charges against the Chief Justice. Sereno had supposedly failed to submit SALNs for several years when she was teaching at the University of the Philippines (UP), in addition to allegations she excluded two properties from her SALN.

Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, convicted Sereno’s predecessor, the late Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 for omissions in his SALN.

Sereno’s spokesperson, Jojo Lacanilao, however, claims the alleged non-filing of the SALN is not relevant to the impeachment case. He said the non-filing was allegedly committed when Sereno was a professor, and not an impeachable official.

Aside from Sereno’s SALNs, Umali said the draft resolution cites Sereno’s supposed hand in excluding Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas-Peralta from the shortlist of nominees for the position of CA presiding justice.

Umali also said the Justice panel noted Sereno disrespected impeachment proceedings when she refused to attend them.

Lacanilao, however, said the JBC only implemented its rules in its shortlist of nominees. He also countered, it was lawmakers who rejected Sereno's request to allow her lawyers to examine witnesses on her behalf.

Sereno is accused of violating the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes. She has repeatedly denied the allegations and asked for the complaint to be dismissed.

The Chief Justice has said she would answer allegations once her case reaches Senate for trial, as she did not want to preempt her defense.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on March 8, Sereno said she ready to face the Senate impeachment court. The embattled Chief Justice also said the issue of her impeachment is larger than her and is tied with “judicial independence.”

READ: Sereno on impeachment defense: We're 'ready to go'

Aside from the impeachment case, Solicitor General Jose Calida has also filed a quo warranto petition questioning Sereno's appointment as Chief Justice.

READ: SolGen questions Sereno's qualifications as chief justice

CNN Philippines’ Eimor Santos contributed to this story