By Charmaine A. Tadalan
THE HOUSE COMMITTEE on Justice on Tuesday dismissed the impeachment complaints filed by opposition lawmakers against the seven Supreme Court justices who granted the quo warranto petition that ousted Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno as Chief Justice.
“With 23 voting against the motion, the motion to declare the… impeachment complaints to be sufficient in substance is defeated,” Committee chair, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador C. Leachon, said during the panel meeting.
“That being the case, the seven consolidated complaints against Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and six members of the Supreme Court are declared by this committee to be insufficient in substance,” he also said.
Mr. Leachon was acting on the motion of Siquijor Rep. Ramon V.A. Rocamora to vote on the complaints’ sufficiency in substance. Mr. Rocamora was the sole member of the committee to vote in the affirmative.
Mr. Rocamora said the justices had “prejudged the (quo warranto) case” against Ms. Sereno based on their testimonies before the Committee during the impeachment proceedings against her.
“(The) basic foundation of our justice system is the requirement that a judge should be impartial…and should appear to be impartial,” Mr. Rocamora argued. “Can you say they are impartial when they decided the quo warranto?”
Some members of the panel, however, said the justices merely testified in accordance with the subpoena issued by the House Justice Committee in the course of its proceedings on the impeachment complaint against Ms. Sereno.
“I believe the Justices should not be punished for respecting a co-equal branch of government….As resource persons, they helped this Committee in performing its constitutional mandate,” Cavite Rep. Strike B. Revilla said during his manifestation.
The Committee on Sept. 4 found the complaints sufficient in form. The panel will again hold a hearing on Sept. 18 to finalize a committee report that will be up for plenary approval.
The impeachment complaints, filed by Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Magdalo Rep. Gary C. Alejano, and Ifugao Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr., were for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
Also among the respondents are Justices Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Andres B. Reyes, Francis H. Jardeleza, Noel G. Tijam, and Alexander G. Gesmundo.