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Umali predicts 100% probable cause in impeach case vs CJ

The House committee on justice has yet to vote on the probable cause of the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, but its chairman, Oriental Mindoro Rep Reynaldo Umali said the public should expect an unfavorable vote for Sereno. 

“A simple reading of the evidence presented and the testimonies of the witnesses and her (Sereno) refusal to controvert these during our
extensive hearings will lead us to establish probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Sereno,” Umali said.
Umali said his committee will determine probable cause based on each ground of the several issues that lawyer Larry Gadon raised in his impeachment complaint.
Next week, Umali said his panel will push through with the planned voting to approve the committee report and the Articles of Impeachment.
“As far as my committee is concerned, all procedures will be done to send our report to the plenary before our break,” said Umali.
As if he was not privy to what Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas had said, Umali said he will leave everything to the House leadership whether to set aside plenary voting on the Articles of Impeachment against Sereno before Congress goes on Holy Week recess and discuss this during resumption in May.
Earlier, House Majority Floor Leader Fariñas said the House of Representatives had decided to temporarily set aside plenary voting on the Articles of Impeachment to wait for the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the removal petition versus the Chief Justice through a quo warranto petition.
“No. There will be no vote on plenary, only in the committee. It will come to the [House] committee on rules. I will also study the Articles of Impeachment because when you vote, you have to be ready with the Articles of Impeachment,” he said.
Fariñas said the House plenary would be able to act on the committee report of the justice panel until May 14, 2018.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered Sereno to comment on the petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida who wants her appointment invalidated by the High Court.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said the quo warranto is baseless as it is not anchored on the Constitution.
He said that the required submission of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth is a requirement made by the Judicial and Bar Council but is not stated in the Constitution which requires that a member of the Supreme Court should be a Filipino, 40 years of age and have been practicing law for at least 15 years
Hilbay also argued that the Judicial and Bar Council is a constitutional body and can change its rules anytime, as Hilbay defended the JBC rules on the non-submission of Sereno’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) that was moreover hidden by the JBC from the other justices applying and with the JBC officers and officials admitting under oath that Sereno was given a pass for her failure to meet all the requirements.

During the impeachment hearings, some witnesses alleged that Sereno failed to file her SALNs when she was being considered as Chief Justice, prompting questions about her qualifications for holding the judiciary’s top post.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the filing of a petition for quo warranto is a proper course of action, noting that the on-going impeachment process and the quo warranto petition are two separate causes of action that can proceed independently of each other.
Albay Rep Edcel Lagman said that the quo warranto petition is an assault against the Constitution.
Lagman said that the removal of Sereno cannot be short-circuited by an improper quo warranto action before the Supreme Court.
A petition for quo warranto to oust the chief magistrate cannot supplant the categorical provision of the Constitution that a chief justice, like the rest of the impeachable officials, can only be removed on impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate for “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust”.
If by any stretch of the imagination, failure to file prior years’ SALNs can be subsumed under “betrayal of public trust”, then it must be the Senate as the impeachment court which must resolve this issue.
The ploy of Calida in interposing a petition for quo warranto before the High Court, albeit at the active instigation and with endorsement of the House leadership, is unconstitutional because it inveigles the Supreme Court to emasculate the House of Representatives and the Senate of their respective jurisdictions to impeach and remove the chief magistrate once warranted.
After compelling Sereno to file an indefinite leave of absence when the ouster plot against her engineered by no less than seven Justices failed, the same Justices are given the sham opportunity to achieve their objective of removing Sereno through the quo warranto petition.
The quo warranto action must be ultimately dismissed not only because it has no basis and has already prescribed, but it is also an indefensible assault on the Constitution.
Efforts, preparation
for Senate trial wasted
All the efforts in the Senate, preparations for the impending impeachment trial against Supreme Chief Justice Sereno will only go to waste should the High Court take jurisdiction of the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Calida.
“The possibility of the impeachment not going through is there. Why? The statement of the leaders of the House of Representatives is that they will wait for the Supreme Court resolution (on the quo warranto,” said Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
“If the Supreme Court, with its own wise judgment, says we have jurisdiction over the quo warranto and we believe that there is a basis to let the Chief Justice go, so the House of Representatives will not send us the Articles of Impeachment, so what will we do?” he asked.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, however, refused to entertain such scenario.
“I cannot assume that. I cannot assume that it (trial) will not push through,” he said.
Pimentel said he is set to attend to the rules of the impeachment proceedings, the review of which is nearly complete.
The upper chamber chief said preparations in the Senate have, in fact, been in full swing now for nearly two weeks in anticipation of the possibility of the Articles of Impeachment being transmitted to the upper chamber by the House of Representatives anytime next week.
Pimentel said he is aware of reports on the planned move of the lower house to await the action of the SC on the Calida petition before proceeding with the deliberations on the impeachment complaint.
(But) I should not assume. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez did not say that. They will instead await (the SC decision) since the quo warranto is a new case. He did not come up with the commitment that he will not send this to the Senate. Who knows, we may just be surprised. Just to be a responsible member of the Senate, we should not assume,” he stressed.
But Drilon does not discount the possibility of Sereno’s fate being left in the hands of the SC and not by the Senate as an impeachment court.
“It depends on the Supreme Court. When we were law students we were always taught that the Constitution and the law us what the Supreme Court says it is,” he said.
Drilon said the position taken by SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to dismiss outright the Calida petition does not have any weight if not backed by majority of the magistrates.
“The SC is a collegial body. He is the only dissenter. isa. If he can get the majority of the court to go along with him, then that opinion prevails. But if the majority thinks otherwise then there is no impeachment court we’ll talk about, there is no opportunity to wear the (impeachment) robe,” he said.
It’s apparent that the lower house action will be governed by what the high court will do, Drilon said.
“If the Supreme Court says that the quo warranto is not the correct remedy, then they may or may not send to us the articles of impeachment, if there is probable cause. If the Supreme Court says they have jurisdiction and will decide on the merits, and says that the Chief Justice is not eligible or did not have the qualification, even if you don’t agree with that, that is what will be recognized as the state of things, and therefore the House of Representatives will not send the articles of impeachment and that’s the end of it,” he said.
Rody: No part in impeach, quo warranto cases
President Duterte on Tuesday night denied having a hand on the fate of embattled Sereno.
In a speech before members of an anti-corruption body he created, the Chief Executive said he has never encouraged the filing of charges nor the ouster of Sereno who took an indefinite leave last week.
To begin with, Mr. Duterte said he cannot even decide on Sereno’s case. She is likely to face the Senate Impeachment court as members of the Lower House have hinted that Sereno’s destiny has already been sealed.
“You can ask anybody, I never initiated Sereno. I just called her attention because of the so many cases pending and her varying decisions,” he said.
“Congress, well, you be the judge. I cannot because I’m with the Executive department. We are co-equal branches so I cannot meddle,” he added.
Saying that he’s not at all mad at the Chief Justice, Mr. Duterte said she did not totally disclose her wealth in her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth from the P30-million lawyer’s fees she received from the government for representing Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. in an arbitration case in Singapore in 2003.
Sereno and her supporters have accused Mr. Duterte of masterminding the troubled soup where the chief magistrate’s in now.
Pro-Duterte lawyer Larry Gadon has filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno last October.
With Angie M. Rosales and Ted Tuvera

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