MANILA -- The chairman of the House justice committee is eyeing to put the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to a vote in the plenary by December 13.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, committee chairman, said on Wednesday that the remaining session days before the Christmas break would be allotted for the hearings on the determination of probable cause based on the specific grounds found in the impeachment complaint filed by Atty. Larry Gadon.
Gadon's complaint contains four grounds for impeachment including culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.
Umali said the committee deliberations on November 27, 28, and 29 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 justice committee already started its deliberations today whether the impeachment complaint against Sereno has probable cause based on the first ground of culpable violation of the Constitution.
Some lawmakers grilled Gadon for lacking personal knowledge, as well as authentic documents, to back his allegations against Sereno.
Both personal knowledge and authentic records are requirements in the filing of the impeachment complaint before the House of Representatives.
During the hearing, Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun asked Gadon if he has a copy of the draft of the temporary restraining order (TRO) that the chief magistrate allegedly falsified.
Gadon alleged that Sereno "tampered with and altered' the draft TRO sent by Associate Justice Teresita de Castro on the party-list proclamations during the 2013 elections.
However, upon grilling, Gadon admitted that he has no copy of the draft TRO that was purportedly falsified.
"It appears that as admitted by complainant, he has no personal knowledge of the facts alleged and the documents on which they're based are not even available," Fortun said.
In an interview, Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao said the committee hearing proved that Gadon cannot substantiate his allegations in the complaint.
Bag-ao questioned Gadon's capacity to answer the basic queries of the committee members, noting that he has been saying that Justice de Castro is the one who could answer.
"Paulit-ulit yung sagot niya na hind dapat siya yung sasagot. Pero ang basehan ng pag-approve ng committee at nakarating tayo sa ganitong level ay sabi niya ay meron personal knowledge siya at alam niya ang kanyang reklamo pero wala siyang nasasagot," Bag-ao said.
(He repeatedly replied that he should not be the one to answer. However, the basis why the committee approved (the complaint in form and substance) and we reached this level is because he said he has personal knowledge in his complaint but he cannot answer.)
Umali, in a separate interview with reporters, said that while Gadon lacks authentic documents and personal knowledge, the committee can use its subpoena powers to summon "relevant people" and "pertinent documents" to aid their deliberations.
Umali stressed that the justice committee would not back down on its constitutional mandate to "initiate this impeachment proceeding."
"May nangyari (Something happened [and]), we have to substantiate that. Bakit may draft ano yun iniimbento lang ni Justice de Castro? May nag-away, ipipikit lang ba natin mga mata natin? (Why is there a draft? Was it just invented by Justice de Castro? There was a rift, should we just keep our eyes closed?)," Umali said.
"Hopefully the members would realize that our role is not to impugn, but to really get the factual circumstances that would really give us good basis whether she should really be removed," Umali added.
The justice committee will invite all Supreme Court justices to shed light on the allegation that Sereno falsified several en banc resolutions.
Source: Philippine News Agency