Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (File photo by RAFFY LERMA/Philippine Daily Inquirer)
The House of Representatives justice committee on Wednesday started the ball rolling on the two impeachment complaints lodged against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The justice committee convened to tackle whether or not there is form and substance on the two complaints against Sereno endorsed by 41 lawmakers.
Determination of the form and substance is the first stage before an impeachment complaint may be approved by the House for transmittal to the Senate, which will act as an impeachment court.
Sereno faces two impeachment complaints for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and corruption for purportedly bypassing the Supreme Court en banc in creating new offices, her “whimsical” and “excessive” purchase of the P5.1 million Toyota Land Cruiser, and her alleged failure to declare “exorbitant lawyer’s fees” allegedly amounting to $745,000, or P37 million.
Sereno in various instances called for the rule of law and warned against possible abuses of martial law.
She earned the ire of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, when she supposedly cautioned the Court of Appeals justices not to attend a House probe on the Ilocos Norte provincial government’s allegedly anomalous use of tobacco funds that implicated Governor Imee Marcos.
The justices were called to explain why they should not be cited for contempt for granting a writ of habeas corpus to the six provincial government officials detained at the House.
The justice committee chairperson, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, earlier hinted at a “creeping” impeachment proceeding, once the impeachment complaints get the support of one third of all the House members.
But Speaker Alvarez denied such a move, adding that the complaints need to be scrutinized first in the House.
Under the 1987 Constitution, an impeachment complaint may hurdle the House justice committee and proceed to trial in the Senate impeachment court if it gets one third support of all the members of the House.
In an impeachment proceeding, the House will act as the prosecuting panel while the Senate acts as an impeachment court. /idl