House panel chair: 3 more SC justices to testify in Sereno impeachment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — House Justice Committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali said on Monday that three more Supreme Court (SC) justices will testify in the impeachment hearings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno next week.

Umali said the justices - Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, Associate Justice Noel Tijam, and retired Associate Justice Arturo Brion - requested that they be allowed to attend the hearing on December 11.

They are still waiting for the SC en banc to release its decision allowing them to appear before the House panel.

"Yung charge nila, yung kay Justice Jardeleza kasi is about the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council). That should be a separate charge. Yung kay Justice Tijam is about Maute. Another separate charge yun. Yung usurpation I guess, Art Brion," Umali said.

The Court en banc has earlier allowed all of its justices and staff invited by the House Justice Committee to testify only on administrative matters. Only Associate Justice Teresita De Castro was allowed to testify on adjudicative matters, or matters relating to court cases.

De Castro is also expected to once again attend the impeachment hearing on December 11.

Impeachment complainant Larry Gadon had accused Sereno, among others, of excluding Jardeleza from the JBC shortlist even though he already had the needed votes.

Sereno also allegedly delayed the request made by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to transfer cases against members of the Maute group outside Mindanao for security reasons.

Impeachment hearing resumes

Meantime, the House Justice Committee will resume the impeachment hearing on Tuesday, where Supreme Court staff are expected to shed light on the allegation that Sereno committed culpable violation of the Constitution when she delayed the release of retirement benefits of judges and justices.

Court Administrator Midas Marquez will return as a resource person, along with Deputy Clerk of Court Atty. Anna-li Papa-Gombio, Technical Working Group Special Committee on Retirement Chairman Atty. Jocelyn Fabian, and Employees' Welfare and Benefits Division Chief Judicial Staff Officer Charlotte Labayani.

The House Justice Committee is also expected to discuss the allegation that Sereno violated the Constitution when she manipulated the JBC shortlist.

JBC Executive Officer Atty. Annaliza Ty-Capacite is expected to face the hearing to give her views on the matter and submit pertinent documents related to the JBC.

House panel to miss schedule

Umali said the panel will not be able to come up with a decision on whether or not there is probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno by December 11, as originally scheduled.

"January na siguro. Cannot be e. Hindi kami aabot no matter what we do. Anyway we still have until May," Umali said.

[Translation: We'll come up with a decision maybe by January. No matter what we do, we won't meet the original date. Anyway, we still have until May.]

Umali added there won't be a plenary vote on the matter on December 13, the last day of session this year.

He added by the 13th, the House panel will finish discussing the allegations made by complainant Larry Gadon under the impeachment grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution, and graft and corruption.

The committee is expected to continue discussing the allegations under the impeachment grounds of betrayal of public trust and other high crimes when session resumes in January.

The House panel has until May 2018 to come up with a committee report and a decision on whether or not there is probable cause to impeach Sereno.

In previous hearings, the House panel had discussed Sereno's alleged creation of a new office called the Judiciary Decentralized Office to replace the Regional Court Administration Office in Region 7 or Central Visayas.

They also tackled Sereno's alleged alteration of Justice De Castro's draft of a temporary restraining order on a party-list during the 2013 elections.