April 22, 2018, 3:16 am
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.07053 UAE Dirham
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.01551 Euro
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.01349 British Pound
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.89975 Gambian Dalasi
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1 Philippine Peso = 3.95007 Guyana Dollar
1 Philippine Peso = 0.15072 Hong Kong Dollar
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1 Philippine Peso = 1 Philippine Peso
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1 Philippine Peso = 380.06338 Sao Tome Dobra
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House panel OKs Articles of Impeachment vs Sereno

THE House committee on justice yesterday endorsed for plenary approval six Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who has taken an indefinite leave amid calls for her resignation.

Voting 33-1, the panel chaired by Rep. Reynaldo Umali (PDP-Laban, Oriental Mindoro) approved the 45-page committee report which includes the 56-page resolution “setting forth” the Articles of Impeachment against the chief magistrate.

Umali said the Articles of Impeachment “will be the foundation in prosecuting this impeachment case before the Senate, as an impeachment court.”

Malacanang said it would allow the impeachment process against Sereno to proceed, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr.

“We leave the matter of the impeachment of the CJ wholly to the Congress, because that is a Constitutional function of the House of Representatives. Once approved by Plenary, then the articles of impeachment will be submitted to the Senate and the Senate will have to organize itself as an impeachment court. So we will allow the constitutional process to proceed,” Roque said.

Sereno’s camp said they were not surprised by the move of the House committee on justice, adding they are waiting for the transmittal of the case to the Senate for trial.

Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said the chief magistrate is “thoroughly and fully preparing her defense.”

Deinla, however, belittled the committee report, saying the offenses failed to rise to the level of an impeachment offense.

SC employees wore red anew in yesterday’s flag raising ceremony in support of the 13 justices who asked Sereno to file a leave of absence, but this time some were printed with new hashtags, like “#One Supreme Court, Para sa Hudikatura, Sulong Korte Suprema, Support 13 Justices and Court Administrator.”

The Articles of Impeachment said Sereno “has failed to live up to the standards imposed by the constitution and the Supreme Court upon members of the Judiciary.

“She has, by her own acts, caused the diminution of public faith in the Judiciary. This can neither be undone nor can we expect her to change as her acts are influenced not by external forces but by her very own personality or psychological makeup,” it said.

It said the Senate has no option but to convict Sereno, pointing out that when she applied for the position in 2012 she already “violated the trust and confidence of the Filipino people by accepting the position knowing that she cannot comply with the requirements for the position of Chief Justice.”

“The Filipino people cannot afford another twelve (12) years of a divided Supreme Court under her leadership. The Senate must preserve the fate of the Judiciary and the fate of the Filipino people,” lawmakers said.

The complaint will need a vote of one-third in the plenary to be transmitted to the Senate for trial.

The committee on rules chaired by majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas has 10 session days to include it in the order of business of the plenary which has 60 session days to dispose of an impeachment complaint.

Only Rep. Christopher Belmonte (LP, Quezon City) opposed the motion of Rep. Vicente Veloso (PDP-Laban, Leyte) to approve the committee report and the Articles of impeachment.

Out of the 27 allegations cited by lawyer Larry Gadon in his impeachment complainant, 24 were included in the six articles for alleged betrayal of public trust, corruption, other high crimes and culpable violation of the Constitution.

“These six articles are anchored on strong evidence, documentary and testimonial that will stand trial,” said Umali. “They are rooted from the findings of psychological and mental disorder of the Chief Justice by the two JBC (Judicial and Bar Council) psychologists and psychiatrist who examined the Chief Justice using the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder.”

Belmonte, however, said Sereno’s lack of rapport with colleagues – some of whom even testified against her – is not an impeachable offense.

“Her (Sereno’s) colleagues believe that their relationship with her has soured and that it’s hard to work with her but I think it does not provide enough ground for it to become an impeachable offense,” he said.

The first article accuses Sereno of 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 (SALN).

Sereno allegedly misled the Judicial and Bar Council in 2010 when she claimed that it was impossible to retrieve her SALNs from 1996 to 2006. She is also accused of failing to declare in her SALN 2.24 hectares of land in Mariveles, Bataan, registered under her and her husband’s name, worth around P44 million.

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: from 1987 to 1997, 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 allegedly misusing a total of P18 million in public funds in the purchase of a brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser, hiring of an IT consultant for a fee of over P11 million, and using Shangri-la 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, Sereno is accused for betrayal of public trust for allegedly failing to comply with her oath of office and by tyrannical abuse of discretionary power. – With Jocelyn Montemayor
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