The protracted investigation of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno may be finally headed toward complete resolution, with the approval by the House Committee on Justice of six articles of impeachment against her after five months of impeachment hearings.
With 33 committee members approving and only one member dissenting, the committee wrapped up decisively its series of hearings on the impeachment complaint against CJ Sereno filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. The lone dissenter was Jose Christopher Belmonte of the Belmonte political dynasty in Quezon City.
The House impeachment document consists of 45 pages of the committee report on the hearings and 56 pages containing the six articles of impeachment.
The vote will send the articles of impeachment to the House plenary for formal approval.
The six articles of impeachment prepared by the panel against Sereno covered culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes.
Twenty-four of the 27 allegations cited by Gadon in his complaint were included in the articles of impeachment.
The first article cites Sereno’s alleged failure to file and disclose properties in her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, while the second article cites her alleged misuse of a total of P18 million worth of public funds that allegedly manifested her “grandiose sense of self-importance.”
The third article cites Sereno for allegedly arrogating unto herself the powers of the Supreme Court through acts of misrepresentation and manipulation.
The fourth article cites the allegation that Sereno “deliberately and maliciously” abused her position as chief justice.
The fifth article cites Sereno for allegedly undermining and violating the principles of separation of powers among the three branches of government.
The last article cites her for willful and deliberate failure to comply with her oath of office by alleged tyrannical abuse of discretionary power.
House Justice Committee chair Reynaldo Umali told the media that the articles of impeachment were culled from the testimonial and documentary evidence presented during the five-month hearing period.
“The six articles are anchored on strong evidence, documentary and testimonial that will stand trial,” Umali said.
“They are rooted [to]the findings of psychological and mental disorder in the chief justice by the two JBC (Judicial and Bar Council) psychologists and psychiatrist who examined Sereno using the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder,” Umali added.
The committee report and the articles of impeachment will forthwith be transmitted to the House Committee on Rules, which will calendar the panel’s recommendations for voting in the House plenary.
The articles of impeachment must be approved by one-third (98 lawmakers) of all members of the House of Representatives before they can be transmitted to the Senate, where CJ Sereno will then stand trial.
We believe the House justice committee, under the leadership of Representative Umali, performed a commendable job in investigating and hearing the impeachment complaint against the chief justice. It was indubitably correct and forthright in deciding to seek probable cause for Sereno’s impeachment.
Because the committee went the distance, the nation today has been placed in a good position to find full satisfaction to the many vexing questions surrounding CJ Sereno’s magistracy and her continued stay in the high court. The impeachment trial will finish the job.