SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Voting 33-1, the House Committee on Justice today approved its 45-page committee report finding probable cause to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
The committee likewise approved the accompanying 56-page Articles of Impeachment, detailing the charges against her that would be elevated to the Senate for trial.
The lone dissenter is Quezon City Rep. Christopher Belmonte.
“We have made history here in defining the impeachment process in the HOR (House of Representatives),” said committee chair, Rep. Reynaldo Umali.
Umali said the six articles of impeachment that the committee has prepared “will be the foundation in prosecuting this impeachment case before the Senate, as an impeachment court.”
The first article of impeachment charges Sereno for culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust for non-filing and non-disclosure of her Sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
Sereno, according to the committee, misled the Judicial and Bar Council in 2010 when she claimed it is not possible to retrieve her SALNs from 1996 to 2006. She is also accused of failing to declare in her 11 SALN 2.24 hectares of land in Mariveles, Bataan, registered under her and her husband’s name, worth around P44 million.
Likewise, the panel said Sereno failed to declare in her 2006 and 2009 SALNs the amount of P13.8 million which is part of the more than P32 million she earned from the PIATCO cases. Moreover, the committee said Sereno failed to file her SALN 17 times: for 1987 to 1997, for 1999 to 2001, and 2003 to 2005.
The committee also charged Sereno for tax fraud.
In the second article, Sereno was charged for corruption and betrayal of public trust for misusing a total of P18 million in public funds in the purchase of a brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser, hiring of IT consultant for a fee of over P11 million, and using Shangrila Boracay for the meeting of ASEAN chief justices.
Under the third article, Sereno was accused of arrogating the collegial power of the Supreme Court en banc by issuing resolutions and order without the approval of the body, or contrary to what was agreed by the en banc.
In the fourth article, Sereno was charged for deliberately and maliciously abusing her position as Chief Justice and ex officio chairperson of the Judicial and Bar Council through efforts to exclude then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza from the short list of nominees to the vacant SC post, among others.
The fifth article accuses Sereno of deliberately undermining and violating the principle of separation of powers among the three branches of government when, among others, she interfered in the investigation of the House on the misuse of tobacco excise tax funds by the Ilocos Norte government by asking Court of Appeals justices to challenge the House order by elevating the issue before the SC.
Lastly, the panel charged Sereno for betrayal of public trust by willfully and deliberately failing to comply with her oath of office and by tyrannical abuse of discretionary power.
Umali also noted that based on the expert opinion of Dr. Geraldine Tria, who reviewed Sereno’s psychiatric evaluation, that she displayed the following 5 out of 9 symptoms of mental disturbance: interpersonally exploitative; preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power and brilliance; lacks empathy; has sense of entitlement, and a grandiose sense of self-importance.
Umali noted that the judiciary is divided, noting the unprecedented move of the SC en banc to force Sereno to go on an indefinite leave.
“The situation of our Supreme Court today and the judiciary is turning from bad to worse,” Umali said, pointing out that several organizations within the judiciary have joined the demand for Sereno’s resignation.
“This clearly shows the divided judiciary that would only escalate if the leadership in the third branch of government continues to be dysfunctional,” Umali said.
The approved committee report and the accompanying Articles of Impeachment will be sent to the Committee on Rules which will then decide, within 10 session days, when to calendar the matter for plenary deliberation.
Once in the matter is in the plenary, the House has 60 session days to finally vote on whether or not to send Sereno’s impeachment to the Senate for trial.