Impeachment raps vs. De Castro, 6 other justices found sufficient in form

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — The House Committee on Justice on Tuesday unanimously found as "sufficient in form" the impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro and six other Supreme Court magistrates. 

All 21 lawmakers present in the hearing said the complaints were properly signed and verified, and can therefore hurdle one of the first steps in the impeachment proceedings. No one objected to the motion made by Rep. Henry Oaminal.

The panel, however, deferred their vote on the complaints' sufficiency in substance, or whether "there is a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee." The solons said some of them received copies of the complaints yesterday, making it impossible for them to scrutinize the documents properly in time for Tuesday's hearing.

The next hearing will be on September 11.

Aside from the newly appointed Chief Justice, Supreme Court Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Andres Reyes, Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Francis Jardaleza, Noel Tijam were slapped with impeachment raps on August 23. The complainants are opposition solons Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano, and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat.

The congressmen alleged the respondents committed culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust over the judges' decision to unseat former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition. The landmark ruling was highly divisive - with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Senate leadership maintaining that Sereno should have gone through impeachment.

The controversy is also the reason for mixed reactions to De Castro's appointment as top judge. A vocal critic of Sereno, De Castro even testified against her in House hearings before voting to oust her.

De Castro said her 45 years of government service, not her role in Sereno's ouster, was the basis for her appointment. President Rodrigo Duterte also said he chose De Castro since she was the most senior among the justices vying for the post. She will retire on October 8 after a 40-day stint as head of the Supreme Court.