April 22, 2018, 10:28 pm
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Umali: Sereno impeachment a done deal

CHIEF Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s impeachment is just a matter of time now that there are sufficient grounds to oust her, the chair of the House committee on justice said yesterday.

Rep. Reynaldo Umali (PDP-Laban, Oriental Mindoro) believes that there will be enough votes to send the complaint against Sereno to the Senate for trial especially since Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has already said that there is basis to remove her from office.

“I was asked once and I said it seemed to me that the writing is on the wall (that Sereno will be impeached),” he said, pointing out that Alvarez has the support of the supermajority coalition.

The justice committee is scheduled to resume its hearing today to determine if the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon has probable cause to merit a trial in the Senate.

Umali said his panel members have told him after a series of hearings that the issues are now clear to them, “more so for non-members who will toe the line and follow our leader (Alvarez).

“That’s why we’re just strengthening our case in the committee and determine which ones will make it when we craft the Articles of Impeachment,” said Umali, a former member of the Liberal Party.

Umali said the panel may need at least nine or 10 more hearings to be able vote if there is probable cause to impeach Sereno.

“To my mind, I case see us wrapping up by February. I think we’ll need around nine or 10 more hearings,” he said.

Expected to attend today’s hearing are Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta and Samuel Martires.

Three incumbent SC justices have so far testified against Sereno – Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam.

The three testified on accusations that Sereno has a penchant for unilaterally acting on matters involving the Court en banc.

Retired associate justice Arturo Brion testified on how Sereno made it difficult for then Solicitor General and now SC Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza to be included in the shortlist for SC nominees.

The other justices who are expected to attend the hearings are Mariano del Castillo and Andres Reyes Jr.
 
ENDLESS INVITATION

Umali also said that his committee will decide today if it will insist on calling SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio after he declined the invitation to testify on the ground that he has no personal knowledge on the allegations against Sereno.

“I will ask them (panel members) if they still have questions (for Carpio). If there are, we’ll invite him again,” said Umali, adding that some of the issues were already addressed by other resource persons.

Carpio was invited by the panel to testify on various allegations against Sereno, including the accusation that she delayed the resolution of the urgent request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the transfer of cases involving Maute terrorists to courts outside Mindanao.

He was also invited to shed light on the allegation that Sereno’s alleged unilaterally creation of the Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) in the Seventh Judicial Region under Administrative Order No. 175-2012 in 2012.

De Castro earlier accused Sereno of making it appear that the office was just a revival of the Regional Court Administration Office in Region 7 (RCAO 7) which was created by the court en banc, when in fact, she was creating a new office.
 
POINTLESS

Umali shot down the Volunteer Against Crime and Corruption’s (VACC) impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, saying there is no material time to hear it since she is set to retire in July.

“As she approaches her retirement in July 2018, impeaching Ombudsman Morales is no longer practical and realistic,” said Umali.

“Let’s just wait for her retirement, especially now that we are very busy conducting hearings on the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice and of course the push for federalism,” said Umali.

The VACC filed the complaint Last December 13 but not a single member of the House of Representatives endorsed it.

The complainants mainly accused Morales, an appointee of former president Benigno Aquino III, of “selective justice” and even quoted President Duterte as saying that the Office of the Ombudsman appears “to have mastered the art of selective justice – harsh on some, soft on others, even if they all suffer similar and analogous circumstances.”
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