Sereno: House panel must prove impeachment case in Senate

MANILA The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday said the House of Representative panel should prove its impeachment case before the Senate.

This comes after the House justice committee, voting 38-2, found probable cause to impeach her.

Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno's spokespersons, said the House justice panel has already prejudged the case of the Chief Justice since the hearing started more than four months ago, and its decision to vote for probable case was not a surprise at all.

We actually anticipated that. In fact, it was anti-climactic since many months ago the leadership of the committee was saying it's a done deal, there's marking on the wall and they have enough evidence to actually convict the Chief Justice, Lacanilao said in statement.

Even as the committee report has yet to reach the plenary, Lacanilao said the Chief Justice was not expecting any development in House of Representatives but was looking forward to her upcoming trial in Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

What happened today is really not surprising to us. It's just a matter of the [House] proving its case at the Senate, which is the proper forum, and I hope that this happens soon, Lacanilao said.

This is not the end of it all and burden of proving their case is on the House, to actually prove that the Chief Justice should be removed from the office, he added.

Lacanilao maintained that the Chief Justice is innocent and she can prove her innocence at the Senate.

Sereno, he said, is eager to go to trial so she can finally respond to the baseless allegations hurled against her, which she failed to do after the committee barred her lawyers to cross-examine the witnesses on her behalf.

I assure you we eagerly wait for the Senate trial because that's when the Chief Justice can actually air her side finally, which she was deprived of for the last four months, Lacanilao said.

Gadon's impeachment complaint contains four grounds, including corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes. The complaint also alleged 27 acts constituting the offenses charged against the Chief Justice.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, committee chairman, said his panel marked "another milestone" for the first conduct of a full cycle in the initiation of impeachment proceedings from filing and referral, to determination of form, substance, and grounds, and eventually the determination of probable cause.

Umali said the impeachment complaint puts into question Sereno's fitness to continue serving as head of the judiciary, stressing that all its members must be "a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence."

"Failure to live up to the foregoing standard impairs the ability of the Chief Justice to dispense justice. In fact, as the highest magistrate of the land, she must be held to a much higher, if not highest standard," Umali said.

The committee conducted 18 hearings on the determination of probable cause spanning for five months.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas earlier said the House may have to wait for the Supreme Court's decision on the quo warranto petition filed against Sereno before the plenary voting on her impeachment.

FariAas said the soonest possible time the House plenary could put the impeachment complaint against Sereno to a vote is by May 14.

The committee report along with the articles of impeachment is set to be submitted on March 14.

Source: Philippine News Agency