MANILA - (UPDATED) A House of Representatives panel on Thursday ruled that there was enough grounds to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The House Committee on Justice will now draft articles of impeachment against Sereno, which will be submitted to the plenary for approval.
Thirty eight members of the committee voted in favor of the impeachment complaint while only representatives Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands and Kit Belmonte of Quezon City voted otherwise.
In a press briefing after the voting, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali said almost all the allegations in the complaint will make for strong articles for impeachment.
"Lahat malakas naman e. 'Yung SALN, 'yung sa tax, 'yung violation ng collegiality ng Supreme Court, siguro 'yung clustering. Yung iba siguro iko-combine na lang into one article," he said.
If the complaint hurdles the House plenary, it will be forwarded to the Senate, which will act as an impeachment court. A two-thirds vote of all senators is required to remove her from office.
The camp of Sereno said they are not surprised with the vote. Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao said they are now "eagerly waiting" for the Senate trial to begin.
"This is not the end of it all, and the burden of proving the case is on the House, for the House to prove that the Chief Justice should be removed. We believe the Chief Justice is innocent and she can prove her innocence in the Senate," he said.
The complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon said Sereno should be impeached for culpable of violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes.
Gadon has accused Sereno of misdeclaring her wealth and insisting on the purchase of a P5.1-million sports utility vehicle.
Sereno also allegedly delayed the benefits of retired Supreme Court personnel and authorized the hiring of an information technology consultant without public bidding, according to the complaint.
The Chief Justice denied all allegations. She went on indefinite leave from last week to face the impeachment complaint.
Sereno is the second chief justice to be impeached by the House, after Renato Corona, who was ousted and convicted by the impeachment court in 2012 over hidden wealth allegations.
Aside from the impeachment case, Sereno is also facing a separate petition filed by the Solicitor General before the SC, which claimed she was unfit to hold her post.
According to the "quo warranto" petition, Sereno failed to file her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth for a 17-year period.
Lacanilao said Sereno will be filing a comment on the Solicitor General's petition within the 10-day prescribed period.