The impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was filed on September 13 by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon and endorsed by 25 lawmakers. It was deemed a valid complaint by a vote of 30-4 on October 5 by the House Committee on Justice headed by Rep. Reynaldo Umali.
After the House of Representatives resumes its sessions today, November 20, following the All Saints’ Day recess, the committee will meet to vote on whether there is probable cause for the complaint. If it passes this final committee test, the complaint goes to the entire House for a vote on whether or not to impeach Chief Justice Sereno. If the House so approves, the case goes to the Senate for trial.
In recent weeks, there have been well-publicized efforts to get Chief Justice Sereno to resign, the latest coming from new presidential spokesman Harry Roque – “if only to spare the institution (the Supreme Court) from further damage,” he said. This is also the position of President Duterte, but this does not mean the Executive is intervening in the Judiciary, Roque added.
In response, lawyer Carlo Cruz, a spokesman of Chief Justice Sereno, said she has no intention of resigning. She will fight the impeachment case in Congress, he said.
The complaint has four main items – her alleged failure to declare the P37-million professional fee she received when she was a lawyer for the government in the PIATCO case years ago, her alleged extravagant spending of judicial funds, her alleged order to reopen a regional office in Cebu without the approval of the entire Court, and her alleged inaction on applications for benefits by spouses of retired justices and judges.
The impeachment trial will assess the truth of these charges and determine if they constitute any of the required constitutional reasons for removal from office, namely, “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”
In the face of Chief Justice Sereno’s determined refusal to resign, presidential spokesman Roque said, “That’s fine… let the constitutional process continue.” That would be the ideal thing to do. Leave Congress to its constitutional duty without any pressure, intentional or otherwise, from any other quarter.
Let’s have no more calls to resign for whatever reason. Impeachment is a political process and we are confident our congressmen and senators will know what to do, without public prodding from other officials. Just let the process proceed.