The chairman of the House Committee on Justice on Wednesday expressed confidence that there is probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno.
Rep. Reynaldo Umali of the Second District of Oriental Mindoro, the panel chairman, issued the statement as his committee is set to vote today (Thursday) to determine the existence of probable cause to remove 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.
Committee members, he added, will determine probable cause based on each ground raised by complainant lawyer Larry Gadon.
The impeachment complaint filed by Gadon contains four grounds, including corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes. The complaint also alleged 27 acts constituting the offenses charged against the Chief Justice.
Moreover, Umali said, his panel will also push through the approval of the committee report and the Articles of Impeachment next week.
“As far as my committee is concerned, all procedures will be done to send our report to the plenary before our break [on March 21],” Umali said.
Last Tuesday the leadership of the House of Representatives said it will wait first for the Supreme Court ruling on the removal petition against Sereno through quo warranto petition before the plenary voting on the Articles of Impeachment.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas Sr. of the First District of Ilocos Norte said “there will be no plenary voting [before our Lenten break on March 21], but we will approve it at committee level.”
Also, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez of the First District of Davao del Norte said the House may opt to await the SC ruling before the plenary decides whether to send the case to the Senate for trial.
He added there is also nothing wrong if the justice committee is preparing the Articles of Impeachment even before the actual voting to speed up the process.
Alvarez added he is leaving it to the hands of Fariñas to map out the proper course of action for the House.
If the case reaches the Senate for trial, Alvarez said he would leave the task of prosecuting Sereno to other more qualified lawmakers. Instead, Alvarez added, he would rather stay on the sidelines and watch the proceedings.