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Solon finds sufficient grounds to impeach Sereno

Solon finds sufficient grounds to impeach Sereno

THE House justice committee yesterday found enough grounds to pursue the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno's spokesmen, told reporters: "We are dismayed that the committee approved the motion for sufficiency of grounds on the impeachment complaint".

Only Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City and Rep. Arlene "Kaka" Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands objected to sufficiency of the impeachment complaint.

The panel voted 26 against two, approving the committee report dismissing the complaint for insufficiency in form for being "defective".

Gadon claimed Sereno used public funds to finance a "lavish lifestyle", such as staying in posh hotels overseas and purchasing an expensive SUV as her service vehicle; and that she obstructed justice by instructing a Muntinlupa court not to issue a warrant of arrest against Sen.

"We think she (Sereno) can not be subpoenaed since she has the right to send her legal counsels as representatives to face the allegations", she said.

Bag-ao claimed that Gadon himself, in his reply to Sereno's answer to his complaint, admitted that most of his charges were not impeachable offenses.

Roque slammed Sereno's assertion to cross-examine witnesses through her counsel during the impeachment proceedings.

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The two lawmakers who voted against the motion were Reps.

The second letter was filed in response to House Justice Committee Chair Reynaldo Umali's statement that only the Chief Justice as respondent, and not her lawyers, can speak and conduct cross-examination during impeachment hearings.

But Sereno's camp said they are still hoping that the House committee concerned, as well as the plenary, will eventually decide that there is no reason for the lower chamber to hear the impeachment complaint.

The vote earlier was 19-2 but the lawmakers moved to reconsider this after Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said all members of the panel should participate in the voting.

"Are we even going to discuss this?"

"This would effectively deny the Chief Justice her fundamental right to appear and be heard through counsel, and to confront and cross-examine witnesses against her through an independent counsel of her own choice", the letter read.

Thus, if 98 congressmen vote against the committee recommendation, the Bautista impeachment may overtake the House decision on the Sereno complaint that is now pending deliberations on the committee level.

The complaint, filed by former Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, accused Bautista of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution and indirect bribery.


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