Sereno camp: Chief Justice can prove her innocence at Senate impeachment trial

March 8, 2018 - 7:39 PM
Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, in inset

It came as no surprise to the camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno that the House Committee on Justice ruled on Thursday that there was probable cause to impeach her.

In a press release, Atty. Jojo Lacanilao, a spokesman for Sereno, said the team had anticipated the lawmakers’ vote as early as September last year, when the House began hearing the impeachment complaint filed by Atty. Lorenzo Gadon.

Some 38 congressmen agreed that there is probable cause to have Sereno subjected to an impeachment trial, even as Quezon City Representative Kit Belmonte and Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao voted against the existence of probable cause.

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“It was anti-climactic since many months ago, the leadership of the committee was saying it’s a done deal, there’s marking on the wall, and they claimed to have enough evidence to actually convict the Chief Justice,” Lacanilao said.

The House Committee on Justice will prepare a report and submit it for approval before it is sent to the plenary for the vote of the entire House of Representatives on whether or not to impeach the Chief Justice.

Lacanilao said Sereno was not expecting any inauspicious development in House of Representatives, but was looking forward to her upcoming trial in the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

“It’s just a matter of the [House] proving its case at the Senate, which is the proper forum, and I hope that this happens soon,” Lacanilao said. “This is not the end of it all and the burden of proving their case is on the House, to actually prove that the Chief Justice should be removed from the office.”

“The Chief Justice is innocent and she can prove her innocence at the Senate,” he stressed.

He added that Sereno is eager to go to trial so she can finally respond to the “baseless” allegations against her, as she was not able to do so after the House Committee on Justice barred her lawyers from cross-examining the witnesses in her behalf.

“I assure you we eagerly wait for the Senate trial because that’s when the Chief Justice can actually air her side finally, the opportunity of which she was deprived for the last four months,” Lacanilao concluded.

Among the issues and complaints tackled during the House Committee hearings were the state of Sereno’s mental health; her filing of her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth; the delay in the processing of benefits of spouses of deceased justices and judges; the transfer of cases involving the Maute Group outside of Mindanao; and her and her staff’s stay in a luxury hotel during a meeting with other Southeast Asian chief justices.