16 congressmen endorse VACC impeach complaint vs Sereno

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 04 2017 08:55 PM | Updated as of Sep 05 2017 12:48 AM

(UPDATED) Lanao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Mauyag "Jun" Papandayan Jr. and 15 other lawmakers have endorsed an impeachment complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The 16 endorsers are Papandayan, Eric Pineda, Virgilio Lacson, Benhur Lopez, Arnolfo Teves, Jerry Trenas, Ben Evardone, Rogelio Espina, Arthur Defensor Jr., Ferjenel Biron, Joseph Stephen Aduano, Raul Tupas, Benhur Salambangon, Carlito Marquez, Fredenil Castro, and Sharon Garin.

This is the 2nd impeachment complaint endorsed against Sereno, after the complaint of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon was endorsed by 25 congressmen last week. The VACC complaint, while filed ahead of the Gadon complaint, was not endorsed before the Gadon complaint.

Congressional endorsement is a key requirement for the valid initiation of an impeachment complaint.

VACC Chairman Dante Jimenez accompanied Papandayan when he endorsed the complaint before House Secretary-General Cesar Pareja. 

"I-endorso po namin, 'di lang ako, marami kami, naniniwala kami sa ebidensiya... na dapat nang alisin si Sereno dahil sa katiwalian. Marami pang sasama, ako lang nauna," Papandayan said.

Manuelito Luna, a lawyer for VACC, said the complaint covers the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

This stems from Sereno’s actions allegedly taken without the consent of the SC en banc.

“The Chief Justice is acting as if she was the court," Luna said.

The Gadon complaint also delves into Sereno’s actions without the consent of the court considering appointments and the reorganization of offices in the judiciary, although focus had been on Sereno’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs), which Gadon claimed were not truthful like the case of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

House Secretary General Cesar Pareja said the House Committee on Justice, which will have jurisdiction over the complaints, can decide which one to tackle or if both will be tackled and consolidated.

Pareja said there is no "creeping impeachment" since jurisprudence has it that an impeachment complaint must already have the endorsement of 1/3 of congressmen upon filing for it to skip proceedings at the House and be sent to the Senate for trial.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas backed the statement of the secretary general. 

"The secretary general is right. On the question of whether or not they will be referred simultaneously to the Justice Committee, let us report the news as it happens," he said.

Pareja endorsed the VACC impeachment complaint to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez Monday night. Under the rules on impeachment, Alvarez has 10 session days to put the complaint in the plenary's calendar of business for subsequent referral to the Committee on Justice.