House can start hearings on Sereno, Bautista impeach raps: Alvarez

MANILA -- Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday said he wants the House of Representatives to hear first the impeachment complaints lodged against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista to determine whether these can stand trial in the Senate.

In a press conference, Alvarez said the lower chamber could already start conducting hearings on the said complaints once his office refers the documents to the Committee on Rules so that it can be referred to the Committee on Justice, which is tasked to hear the impeachment cases.

He said the House could still focus on the impeachment cases even as it deliberates on the proposed 2018 budget in the plenary.

Tuluy-tuloy na yan. Inaantay ko na lang transmittal from the Office of the Secretary General dito sa akin so that I can refer it to the Committee on Rules para umpisahan na yan ng Committee on Justice, Alvarez said.

(That's continuing. I'm just waiting for the transmittal from the Office of the Secretary General to my office so that I can refer it to the Committee on Rules and that the Committee on Justice could already start tackling these complaints.)

Alvarez noted that the Justice Committee could tackle at the same time the impeachment complaints against Sereno and Bautista.

He also pointed out that while the House has the numbers to transmit the complaint against Sereno directly to the Senate, he wants to make sure that the case is strong enough to stand trial in the impeachment court.

Under the rules on impeachment, one-third of the total number of lawmakers is needed to send the impeachment complaint to the Senate.

Alam mo kung gusto lang namin na dumiretso yan sa impeachment court kayang-kaya, pwedeng gawin, (pero) ayokong gawin. Kasi gusto ko dito pa lang i-hearing muna natin para makita natin kung may ebidensya o wala, whether it can stand trial in court, Alvarez said.

(If we want to, we could already transmit the (impeachment complaint) straight to the Senate, but I don't want to do it. I want the House to hear these cases first so that we could determine if there's enough evidence, (and) whether it can stand trial in court.)

On Monday, 16 House members endorsed the impeachment complaint lodged against Sereno by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution a month after its initial filing.

VACC president Dante Jimenez and Vanguard president Eligio Mallari sought the removal of Sereno on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Last week, lawyer Larry Gadon filed another impeachment complaint against Sereno that was endorsed by 25 House members, including four Deputy Speakers.

In his complaint, Gadon accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.

Gadon stated that Sereno did not declare in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth (SALN) the exorbitant lawyer's fees of USD 745,000 or PHP37 million which she received from the Philippine government.

Meanwhile, Former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio sought Bautista's ouster on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust amid hidden-wealth allegations last August.

Source: Philippine News Agency