THE ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is guaranteed following President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to fast-track her impeachment, lawmakers said on Tuesday.
Party-list Representatives Jericho Nograles of Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta and Makmod Mending of Abante Mindanao made the statement in the aftermath of Duterte’s remarks on Monday urging lawmakers to speed up the impeachment of Sereno as she was “bad for the Philippines.”
Duterte also declared Sereno his “enemy” for her repeated insistence that he was behind the impeachment bid.
“Let me put things in perspective. The President spoke, and he is also speaking as a party-leader of PDP-Laban.
The Supermajority bloc in Congress is filled with members of PDP-Laban. When a party leader says that the chief justice should be impeached, then that would be the result,” Nograles said in a television interview.
The impeachment complaint in the House of Representatives accuses Sereno of failure to submit SALNs to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which screens applicants for judiciary posts and failure to declare properties in Bataan and Davao City; misuse of P18 million in public funds on the purchase of a bulletproof Toyota Land Cruiser, hiring of information technology consultant Helen Macasaet and selection of the Shangri-La Boracay resort for the 3rd Asean Chief Justices’ meeting;
usurping the authority of the Supreme Court as a collegial body by forming a Regional Office of Court Administrator, issuing a temporary restraining order on the case of the Coalition of Senior Citizens party-list and transferring the Maute cases from Marawi to Taguig City without en banc or full-court approval; abusing her position as ex-officio chair of the JBC by excluding the name of then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza from consideration for the post of associate justice; interference in the inquiry by the House of Representatives on the alleged misuse of P66 million in tobacco funds by Ilocos Norte government employees because of a Court of Appeals stay order on the House investigation and undermining the House justice panel’s impeachment proceedings, and tyrannical abuse of discretionary power.
“As a member of the administration coalition, of course you will be pressured to make a decision. Anybody who would say otherwise would be lying. Impeaching her (Sereno) is where we are headed,” Nograles added.
Mending agreed with Nograles. “I am a member of the justice committee and I voted for the approval of the articles of impeachment [against Sereno],” he said.
Over 200 members of the House are either members of the ruling party PDP-Laban or party-list organizations or political parties allied with the administration.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez of Quezon said the impeachment case and even the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida seeking Sereno’s ouster for her failure to submit her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) were both likely to prosper.
“I have never been a fan of the Chief Justice. Her failure to submit SALNs is a valid concern because if that failure was considered, she would not have been appointed as chief justice. There are many others worthy of her position,” Suarez, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance, said in an interview.
‘Decision will be based on evidence’
A number of senators on Tuesday maintained that the decision to convict or acquit Sereno would be based on evidence that would be presented in an impeachment trial.
“I will decide on the basis of the Constitution, the law, and the evidence presented during the trial,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a text message.
Senators Nancy Binay and Joel Villanueva in separate text messages said Duterte’s pronouncement would have no effect on their decision-making.
“If and when it gets transmitted to the Senate, I will vote based on the evidence that will be presented,” Binay said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd declined to comment.
“No comment. Judge,” said Pimentel, who will serve as the presiding officer in the impeachment trial.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said it would be better if the question was posed to leaders of the previous administration.
It was during the term of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd when the late Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached by the Liberal Party-led House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.
Palace clarifies Duterte’s call
Malacañang on Tuesday clarified Duterte’s call to “fast-track” the impeachment process against Sereno, saying he was speaking as chairman of the PDP-Laban.
“The President, as party chairman of PDP-Laban, called for the impeachment of Chief Justice Sereno,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said. “This was directed to the House of Representatives members bel onging to the PDP-Laban,” he added.
Roque made the clarification after Duterte was accused of interfering in the affairs of a co-equal branch following his directive to Congress.
According to former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, the President’s directive to the House was a patent disregard of the constitutional provision on the independence of the three coequal branches of government.
“It’s a clear case of executive overreach because the power to remove an impeachable public official rests exclusively on the House and the Senate,” Hilbay was quoted by a report as saying.
“The President, in making strong statements about the removal of the Chief Justice, is in violation of that particular design of the Constitution,” he added. | WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE / BY LLANESCA T. PANTI, TMT ON
All photographs, news, editorials, opinions, information, data, others have been taken from the Internet ..aseanews.net | [email protected] | For comments, Email to : aseanews.net |