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Justice panel votes to impeach CJ


Report on Sereno’s psychological test results declassified

Voting 38 against two, the House committee on justice yesterday declared the existence of probable cause in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno.

The transmittal of the articles of impeachment however would have to wait until May 14 when Congress resumes sessions after its Lenten break.
“After almost five months of probable cause hearings, totaling 15 hearings, more than 30 resource persons, 10 of whom are current sitting justices of the Supreme Court, one retired Supreme Court justice, one justice of the Court of Appeals, two Sandiganbayan justices, three RTC judges, and other Supreme Court officials and employees, plus the Secretary of Justice, we now move on to determine whether indeed the probability that an impeachable act/acts has been committed by the Chief Justice,” panel chair, Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali declared during the opening of the hearing. Before the voting, Umali delivered a recap of the five month hearing with the aid of a powerpoint presentation on the panel’s summary of findings.

Panel declassifies info
on CJ’s psych test
The justice committee also voted to declassify ied the information on the results of Sereno’s psychiatric evaluation, which she reportedly failed.
During the committee voting on the existence of probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Sereno, Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc raised the motion to declassify Sereno’s psychiatric test results as discussed in a previous executive session.
Impeachment complainant Gadon claimed that Sereno got a four out of five grade in her psychiatric exam. He claimed that “an applicant to any position in the judiciary with a grade of 4 is unfit for the job.”
Umali, justice committee chair, said the results of the psychological evaluation could be used as evidence in proving the impeachment case before the Senate acting as the impeachment court.
“We should declassify it so we could use it probably as part of evidence (before the Senate impeachment court),” Umali said.
Last week, the House justice panel went into an executive session with the two psychiatrists—Dr. Genuina Ranoy and Dr. Dulce Lizza Sahagun—who evaluated Sereno’s application for the top judiciary post.
Dr. Geraldine Tria, who was invited by the committee to evaluate the psychological test results, said Sereno possessed five out of nine symptoms of emotional and dramatic type of personality.
Issues of CJ’s violations
On the issue of culpable violation of the Constitution, enumerated the 11 charges raised against Sereno: (1) She falsified the resolution of Supreme Court in AM 12-11-9- SC on the Reopening of RCAO 7; (2) She falsified the TRO of the Supreme Court in the case of Senior Citizens’ Party List vs. Comelec ; (3) She falsified the resolution of the Supreme Court in AM 16-08- 04-SC in ordering the conduct of a motu propio fact finding investigation on the involvement of four incumbent judges in illegal drugs; (4) She delayed action on the numerous petitions for retirement benefits of justices and judges, and their surviving spouses; (5) She manipulated and delayed the resolution of AM 17-06-02- SC on the request of Secretary of Justice to transfer the Maute cases outside of Mindanao; (6) She failed to truthfully disclose her SALN; (7) She manipulated the JBC shortlist to exclude Justice Francis Jardeleza from the shorlist; (8) She manipulated the JBC shortlist through clustering of nominees for the six vacancies in the Sandiganbayan; (9) She failed to heed the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the case of Aguinaldo vs. Aquino declaring the clustering of nominees as unconstitutional and continue to cluster the shortlist for the two vacancies left by SC Justice Bienvenido Reyes and Jose Mendoza; (10) She lied and made it appear that several Justices requested that the Supreme Court do away with the voting of the recommendees to the Supreme Court; and, (11) She manipulated the JBC by influencing its four regular members.
On the issue of corruption, Umali said Gadon had ascribed three bases as follow: (1) That the Chief Justice committed corruption when she used public funds, to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand new luxurious 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser as her personal vehicle amounting to more than P5 Million; (2) That she committed corruption by staying in opulent Hotels when attending conferences in the Philippines and abroad, and flying on business or first class with her staff and security; and, (3) That she unnecessarily brought a huge entourage of lawyers in her supposed foreign official trips.
On other high crimes, Umali cited four bases: (1) Ordering the Muntinlupa Judges not to issue warrants of arrest against Sen. Leila de Lima; (2) Meeting the presiding justice and associate justice of the Court of Appeals and instructing them not to comply with the processes of the House of Representatives and to immediately raise the issue before the Supreme court regarding the Amnesiac Six provincial officials in Ilocos Norte; (3) Failing to report her extortionate attorney’s fees and paid the appropriate taxes therefor; (4) Embellishing her personal data sheet in her application for the Judiciary to overstate her credentials.
More than enough grounds
Even before the panel voted, Umali and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez declared there were “more than enough grounds” to impeach Sereno, as they both echoed Gadon’s call for the Chief Justice to just tender her resignation.
This however, was ignored by Sereno insisting she could win her case once it reaches the Senate trial stage.
While the impeachment complaint is expected to gather more than the required one-third vote of all the House members during the plenary voting, observers said the impeachment proponent could have a hard tme mustering the required two-third votes in the Senate.
Already, Sereno is said to have at least six allies in the Senate, Senators Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, Francis Pangilinan, Antonio Trillanes, Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima, whom Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimental had said, would be allowed to vote.
Majority Leader, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said the Sereno impeachment was totally different from the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In the Corona impeachment, Fariñas said no hearings were conducted as all members of the House were simply invited to sign on the complaint.
In Sereno’s case, Fariñas said extensive hearings were held to discuss the allegations against Sereno.
Umali also expressed confidence the House could win the impeachment trial in the Senate.
“Throughout the probable cause hearings, this committee has gathered sufficient evidence to provide us with ammunition to prosecute the case toward victory,” said Umali.
The panel chaired by Umali immediately formed small group composed of the vice chairmen to prepare the committee report and Articles of Impeachment which be approved next week.
“I move that the committee constituted be given until Wednesday, March 14 to submit its report before this same body...this shall serve as notice to members,” said Ilocos Norte Rep Rodolfo Fariñas.
Prior to this, ABS party-list Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera moved to find probable cause in the impeachment complaint.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, a stalwart of the Nacionalista Party (NP), said “the House committee on justice just performed its constitutional duty of making the Chief Justice accountable to her actions.”
“Due process was followed and observed,” Abu pointed out.
“Now that the panel has chosen the rule of law by upholding the regularity and integrity of the impeachment process, she should not waste this opportunity to defend herself in the Senate Impeachment Court,” Abu said.
Umali’s statement that the committee may vote on each of the 27 allegations did not materialize after Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon took note that they would vote in the totality of the impeachment complaint during plenary approval.
“Whatever will be the vote of each member, and as a totality, will definitely be passed upon before the plenary. Then again, this will be the subject of the scrutiny of all the members of the House,” said
Leachon, a member of PDP-Laban.
Palace pleased
with impeach proceedings
Malacañang was pleased with the development on the impeachment proceedings in the House panel that voted to impeach Sereno on probable cause.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in a press briefing yesterday, told reporters that they are happy to see that the country’s justice system finally works well as evidenced by the prosecution of the embattled top magistrate.
“We are happy to see that our institutions are working well again,” Roque said, referring to the House of Representative’s resolution yesterday that found probable cause on Sereno’s case.
“This shows that our justice system works according to the processes stated in our Constitution especially on the impeachment process to hold high government officials accountable,” he added.
Sereno, who is on leave, is inches away from being summoned at the Senate for an impeachment trial.
CJ camp slammed
result of panel voting
The Sereno camp, as expected, slammed the result of the voting of the panel.
According to lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, the House justice panel has already prejudged the case of Sereno 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,” Lacanilao said. “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.”
Even as the committee report has yet to reach the plenary, Lacanilao 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.
With Ted Tuvera


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