MANILA- House justice committee Chair Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali believes that some members of the Judiciary are behind the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
This, as he parried criticism that the House is behind the impeachment.
"The complaint was filed outside. There appears to be the hand of some members within the Judiciary that have interest in the case. I hope we will not be faulted for it," he said.
Voting 25-2, the House justice committee on Thursday declared the impeachment complaint against Sereno sufficient in grounds.
The complaint stemmed from several accusations including Sereno's alleged non-disclosure of the fees she got from the Piatco case in her 2010 SALN.
Sereno was appointed Chief Justice in 2012 by then President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and is expected to retire in 2030, giving her a rare 18-year term as the country's highest magistrate.
Now that the complaint has been declared to have sufficient grounds, the panel will call for clarificatory hearings on points raised in the pleadings.
This early, Umali said the committee already has preliminary findings that need to be clarified.
The determination of probable cause will be scheduled after the coming Congressional break from Oct. 14- Nov. 12.
Umali said they will subpoena whoever is needed for the clarifications pertaining to the allegations.
"That's why we will set it upon our return in November para during the break, we will really look into it. I'll get the secretariat to look at all of the pleadings..." he said.
Umali maintained that the committee will allow Sereno to confront her accusers.
"In fact kanya yung right of cross examination if at all, if ever the committee will allow it, we will allow the Chief Justice herself to do that," he said.
Sereno's camp has written the committee twice to assert her rights to counsel and to confront her accusers.
The committee decided not to act on it though Umali already said his personal view is that only Sereno herself can confront the witnesses.
Asked about criticisms that the committee ruled on the sufficiency of grounds hastily without proper deliberations and with non-members of the committee silenced during the proceedings, Umali responded: "Meron kasi yung totality rule kahit isang allegation, pwede ma-impeach so the point is we barely have time to really look into it. Last pleading was filed last Monday it's only Thursday."