MANILA - The head of the House of Representatives justice committee on Wednesday urged Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign, saying she would face a divided Supreme Court even if she wins in her impeachment trial.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali said it would be best if Sereno resigns her post to save time and money that would be spent in an impeachment trial.
"Huwag na niyang ipilit ang kanyang gusto. Tuluyan na siyang mag-resign to save the time and even resources the country. She will do the country the favor," he said.
Sereno is facing impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives after lawyer Lorenzo Gadon accused her of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.
On Tuesday, the top magistrate's camp said Sereno would go on a "wellness leave" from March 1 to 15 to prepare for a possible impeachment trial.
Umali, however, said Supreme Court justices tipped him off that Sereno would take an indefinite leave and not just a wellness leave. "Sabi ko nga po, justices. Hindi lang isa 'yun," he said.
"Yan nga ang gusto naming usisain. Dahil sa impeachment complaint lumabas po 'yang ganyang pattern of lies and deception," the lawmaker added.
Several magistrates of the Supreme Court have appeared in the impeachment proceedings, accusing Sereno of several violations and undermining the court as a collegial body.
Meanwhile, the Sereno camp said reports that the Chief Justice was forced to go on an indefinite leave are alarming as it is already like ousting the head of the judiciary.
"Nakakabahala, kung totoo man, kasi walang batayan sa batas o sa Konstitusyon ang ating mga mahistrado na gawin 'yan. Tanging impeachment proceeding lang, na nagaganap ngayon, ang paraan para matanggal sa panunungkulan ang chief justice," lawyer Josalee Deinla said.
Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao earlier said the Chief Justice will advance her scheduled wellness leave in March to prepare for the Senate trial. Sereno will take her leave on March 1 to 15 instead of March 12 to 23 as originally planned, he said.
"There's not much difference there. She advanced it on the idea that she will recoup her strength, rejuvenate, and prepare for the Senate trial that's kinda looming as we see it, looking at what's going on in the House," he said in an interview with ANC.
In a statement, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said he hopes Sereno will consider "what would be best" for the Supreme Court during her leave of absence.
"As the Chief Justice takes her wellness leave, we hope she would take this opportunity to reflect on her time and legacy at the Supreme Court and to consider what would be best for the institution which she heads as top magistrate," he added.
The House justice committee has wrapped up the impeachment hearings on Sereno's case. The lawmakers are set to vote on the determination of probable cause next week.