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House justice panel finds probable cause to impeach Sereno

VOTING 38-2, the House of Representatives’ justice committee yesterday found probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Lawyer Larry Gadon’s impeachment complaint contains four grounds: corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes. The complaint also alleged 27 acts constituting the offenses charged against the Chief Justice.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, committee chairman, said his panel marked “another milestone” for the first conduct of a full cycle in the initiation of impeachment proceedings from filing and referral, to determination of form, substance, and grounds, and eventually the determination of probable cause.

Umali said the impeachment complaint puts into question Sereno’s fitness to continue serving as head of the judiciary, stressing that all its members must be “a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.”

“Failure to live up to the foregoing standard impairs the ability of the Chief Justice to dispense justice. In fact, as the highest magistrate of the land, she must be held to a much higher, if not highest standard,” Umali said.

The committee conducted 18 hearings on the determination of probable cause spanning for five months.

“Throughout the probable cause hearings, this committee has gathered sufficient evidence to provide us with the ammunition to prosecute this case towards victory,” Umali said.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas earlier said the House may have to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on the quo warranto petition filed against Sereno before the plenary voting on her impeachment.

Fariñas said the soonest possible time the House plenary could put the impeachment complaint against Sereno to a vote is by May 14.

The committee report along with the articles of impeachment is set to be submitted on March 14.

Meanwhile, the House committee also declassified the information on the results of the Chief Justice’s psychiatric evaluation.

During the committee voting on the existence of probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Sereno, Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc raised the motion to declassify Sereno’s psychiatric test results as discussed in a previous executive session.

Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia seconded the motion.

Gadon has alleged that Sereno got a four out of five grade in her psychiatric exam. He claimed that “an applicant to any position in the judiciary with a grade of 4 is unfit for the job.”

Umali said the results of the psychological evaluation could be used as evidence in proving the impeachment case before the Senate acting as the impeachment court.

“We should declassify it so we could use it probably as part of evidence (before the Senate impeachment court),” Umali said.

Last week, the House justice panel went into an executive session with the two psychiatrists — Dr. Genuina Ranoy and Dr. Dulce Lizza Sahagun — who evaluated Sereno’s application for the top judiciary post.

Dr. Geraldine Tria, who was invited by the committee to evaluate the psychological test results, said Sereno possessed five out of nine symptoms of emotional and dramatic type of personality. (pna)

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