House panel continues Sereno impeach hearing; De Castro a no-show

MANILA -- The House of Representatives' justice committee on Monday continued its deliberation on the determination of probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno even without the presence of majority of the invited resource persons.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, committee chair, said Associate Justices Teresita De Castro and Noel Tijam will not be able to attend the impeachment proceeding today as they still seek clearance from the court en banc for their appearance.

Other court officials also have to wait for SC en banc's approval. De Castro, Tijam, and other magistrates were invited to attend the hearing to shed light on the allegation that Sereno falsified several documents issued by the high court.

Other SC personalities invited were SC clerk of court Felipa Anama, court administrator Jose Midas Marquez, Public Information Office chief Theodore Te, Judicial and Bar Council Executive Officer Annaliza Ty-Capacite, among others.

Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, the complainant in the case, said last week De Castro is the source of some information he stated in his complaint, particularly the internal administrative matters.

Gadon said he got the information from De Castro through a common friend, whom he identified as Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas.

De Castro denied Gadon's claim, saying that she has "never released to Jomar Canlas any information, report, or document regarding the work of the Supreme Court."

Umali said that while he respects the internal rules of the SC, he called on it to likewise respect the internal rules of the impeachment committee.

Umali said the House justice committee, sitting as an impeachment committee, has the responsibility of "ensuring that the highest officials of our government remain accountable and competent to serve their position."

He further urged the Supreme Court not to give a "piecemeal authority" to court officials and magistrates invited to testify before the impeachment proceeding.

He, meanwhile, slammed Sereno's spokespersons for dubbing the impeachment proceeding as a "dog and pony show."

He said Sereno's lawyers should respect the impeachment process instead of resorting to name-calling and casting aspersions.

Please respect this committee lest we will be forced to use again the coercive powers of the committee and other powers vested in the House of Representatives, he said.

Umali said the committee deliberations set from Monday until Wednesday would cover the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and corruption.

Meanwhile, the two remaining grounds for impeachment, specifically betrayal of public trust and other high crimes, will be tackled by the justice committee on December 4, 5, and 6.

The committee, after the deliberations, will then vote on probable cause and formulate the articles of impeachment afterward.

Source: Philippine News Agency