THE Sereno impeachment case is back in the news after the week of the ASEAN Summit. Right after the House of Representatives resumed its sessions last Nov. 20, the House Committee on Justice convened and immediately ran into controversy with its public statements and decisions.
At this point in the deliberations, we must emphasize the need to be true to the Constitution, to the processes it has laid out, to the independence of each branch of government. It is axiomatic that our democracy works best when the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary are functioning well within their spheres, unhampered in their respective processes.
In the last few weeks, there have been all sorts of side moves and comments in relation to the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Executive officials called on her to resign – “to spare the institution from further damage” – which her camp pointedly rejected. After the House Committee rejected her lawyers’ bid to cross-examine the witnesses against her, they said they are considering a move to bring the matter to the Supreme Court. “We demand fair treatment,” they said.
The impeachment process is well laid out in the Constitution. A complaint must “be on one or more of the impeachable offenses listed in Article XI, Accountability of Public Officers, of the Constitution, and the charges must be with the personal knowledge of the complainant. The House referred the Sereno complaint to its Committee on Justice which, in succession approved it as sufficient in form and in substance. It will now have to vote on whether there is probable cause for the complaint. If this third decision is made, the House will send the complaint to the Senate which will form itself into a court to try the case.
This is the process that must be followed. This is the process outlined in the Constitution in our democracy. It is part of the system of checks and balances in our government.
There was a time in our history when democratic processes were suspended but these have since been restored. We have today a confident Executive branch with enough administrative powers to govern. We have an independent Legislature which is free to enact laws. We have a Judiciary zealously guarding its rights and prerogatives as it interprets our laws. To these three estates of government, we might add here that we have a free press, the Fourth Estate, without any government powers but free to watch and report on government actions and decisions in behalf of the people.
If the House has the numbers, there is no further need to hold back action on the Sereno impeachment case. It should now forward it to the Senate for trial. If the charges have no basis, our democratic system should be able to prevail over partisan politics.