With a 38-2 vote, the House of Representatives’ committee on justice on March 8 ruled to impeach Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
“Throughout the probable cause hearings, this committee has gathered sufficient evidence to provide us the ammunition to prosecute this case towards victory,” said committee chairman Representative Reynaldo Umali.
The panel tasked vice chairpersons Representatives Vicente Veloso, Doy Leachon, Henry Oaminal, Arnulfo Fuentebella, and Strike Revilla to form the small working body that will craft the committee report and articles of impeachment. This shall be submitted on March 14 to the plenary for deliberation and approval.
Among the 38 who voted in favor of finding probable cause to remove Sereno from office are Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, Representatives Rodel Batocabe, Romeo Acop, Anthony Bravo, Aurelio Gonzales, Jr., Alfredo Garbin, Jr., Juan Pablo Bondoc, Vincent Crisologo, and Ramon Rocamora.
Meanwhile, those who cast negative votes were Representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte and Kaka Bag-ao.
According to committee chairman Umali, the representatives may explain their votes at the plenary level.
Before taking the vote, some endorsers of the impeachment complaint filed by Atty. Larry Gadon urged their fellow Members to vote in favor of finding probable cause.
Gonzales stressed the hearings have revealed numerous issues not only with Sereno’s actions and decisions as Chief Justice but her appointment to the position as well, which prompted Solicitor General Jose Calida to file a quo warranto case against Sereno.
“Were it not for the impeachment proceedings before us, we would not be able to discover all these misdeeds and violation of law. […] I urge you now to vote in favor of the truth. Let us perform our constitutional mandate of ensuring that the Chief Magistrate must be made accountable and unfit to lead the third branch of government,” Gonzales said.
For his part, Bravo noted the findings of the committee put into question the credibility of the Supreme Court and the ability of Chief Justice to fairly dispense justice.
“First, can the people still trust the Chief Justice after everything that has been revealed in the public hearings? Second, can the Supreme Court still serve as a collegial body that is the last bastion of truth, justice, and democracy knowing that it is divided beyond repair not just legally but — also ironically — politically? Third, can its rulings still be accepted by our people as competent, credible, and consistent given that dirty linens have been washed in public for all to see, hear, and read? The answer to all those questions is a resounding no,” he said.
The committee ruling in favor of probable cause is borne of the 18 impeachment hearings held by the committee beginning late 2017.
Moreover, the panel approved the de-classification of testimonies and documents shared in the three-hour executive session which dwelled on the psychiatric evaluation of Sereno as part of her application to be Chief Justice.
Bondoc, who raised the motion, said the executive session has no bearing on national security and therefore need not be classified.
Bondoc also explained that the public is already privy to salient information discussed in the session due to the contents of a Manila Times article dated November 27, 2017.