It was hardly any surprise.
The House Committee on Justice on Thursday, March 8 found probable cause in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon against Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
This, after 38 committee members voted “yes” to the question of whether or not there was probable cause in Gadon’s ouster complaint. Only two voted in the negative.
This marked the first time that the House of Representatives declared the presence of probable cause in an impeachment complaint filed against the Chief Justice. While Sereno’s predecessor, Renato Corona, was also impeached by congressmen, his case neither discussed nor voted upon at the committee level.
Sereno, 57, was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2012. Aquino has since stepped down, with his Liberty Party (LP) being dislodged by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) as the country’s top political faction.
The House is dominated by allies of the PDP-Laban led administration coalition. The chairman of the Justice Committee, Oriental Mindoro Representative Rey Umali, is a PDP-Laban stalwart.
“The committee has gathered sufficient evidence to provide us with the ammunition to prosecute this case toward victory,” claimed Umali, who is set to lead the congressman-prosecutors that will try to convict and unseat Sereno in the ensuing Senate impeachment trial.
Gadon, on the other hand, is openly pro-Duterte.
Thursday’s proceedings were preceded by 15 Justice Committee hearings on the determination of probable cause. Discussed during these hearings were 27 allegations against Sereno that were listed by Gadon in connection with four grounds of impeachment.
After the vote, Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas moved for the creation of a small body that will craft the committee report as well as the articles of impeachment. The Justice panel’s vice chairman will comprise this small body.
A deadline of March 14 has been set for the submission of the report and articles of impeachment.