'We owe it to our constituents': Umali says panel to vote on Sereno impeach rap

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 16 2018 07:58 AM

House Justice Committee chair Reynaldo Umali and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. File/Composite

House Justice Committee chair Reynaldo Umali said members of the panel are left with no choice but to vote on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno after the magistrate continued to stonewall the proceedings.

"We owe it not just to the respondent, but to our constituents, to determine if the Chief Justice is still fit to serve and to continue holding her high office. It behooves this impeachment committee therefore, to exhaustively build its case to be filed before the Senate impeachment court," he said during Monday's resumption of the hearing.

The lawyers of Chief Justice Sereno, however, took exception to the remark of the Oriental Mindoro 2nd District representative.

They said Sereno had been participating in the impeachment process.

First, the Chief Justice submitted a verified answer and rejoinder to the complaint, even though rules don't require her to answer.

Second, the Chief Justice didn't oppose the release of all documents requested by the complainant at the Supreme Court.

Lastly, the Chief Justice accepted the invitation to attend the hearings through her counsel, which is her constitutional right.

For Sereno's lawyers, this is just proof committee should just end the proceedings at the House of Representatives and proceed to trial at the Senate.

Lawyer Jose Deinla, one of Sereno's spokespersons, said it was puzzling that both Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Umali claimed there is a strong ground to remove the top magistrate from office while still continuing with the committee's fishing expedition to boost the baseless and malicious allegations of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.

"In view of this, the impeachment proceedings will be nothing but a charade and that the House Committee on Justice will just be resorting to a vilification campaign and fishing expedition to cover up for a fatally defective complaint against the Chief Justice," Deinla said.

Until now, he lamented, the hearings have not produced any solid evidence and sufficient grounds to impeach the Chief Justice.

"Dapat pagbotohan na ito ng Kongreso at iakyat na sa Senado kung saan kami ay umaasa na magkakaroon ng patas na paglilitis at rerespetuhin ang mga karapatan ni Chief Justice na naaayon sa Konstitusyon," Deinla said.

Umali had earlier said the hearings are not a "fishing expedition."

"I wish to emphasize that when this committee voted that the complaint is sufficient in form and substance as well as the grounds for impeachment, this proceeding has taken a life of its own," he said.