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House taking too long on 'done deal'.

As early as last November, 2017, we called for the House of Representatives to act more decisively on the impeachment charges against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The case had been filed on September 13, endorsed by 25 lawmakers, then approved as a "valid complaint" by the Committee on Justice by a vote of 10-4 on October 5.

The committee proceeded to conduct a series of hearings and could have decided in November if there was "probable cause" for the complaint. But the hearings continued with so many witnesses, including several Supreme Court justices, testifying against Sereno. Surely, the committee should have heard enough to vote on the issue of "probable cause" so the case could go to the entire House for a vote. It has now been four months since the complaint was filed by Atty. Larry Gadon on September 13 and the hearings continue to be scheduled.

At the committee hearing last Monday, the committee chairman said it intends to invite next the psychiatrist who gave failing marks on Sereno's psychological makeup when her nomination was up before the Judicial and Bar Council. Such testimony may serve to further lower Sereno's public esteem, but it does not seem to be relevant in the impeachment case which, to quote Section 2 of Article XI of the Constitution, seeks to determine if Sereno is guilty of "culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust."

Last week, Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the committee chairman, announced that the impeachment case is already a "done deal." We believe that this is indeed the situation in the House. There is thus no need to hold further headings. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez himself has publicly declared that the issues against Chief Justice Sereno stand on solid ground.

Congress is facing a very busy schedule. It has just approved the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act and is now preparing to meet as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to amend the Constitution.

It could have disposed of the Sereno impeachment case by sending it to the Senate for trial months ago so that it can now concentrate its efforts on Charter change, with its many crucial side issues, including proposed federalism, a unicameral legislature with a prime minister, elimination of the vice presidency, and so many other basic changes that will impact on the life of the country and the people.

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Title Annotation:Opinions and Editorials
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jan 19, 2018
Words:406
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