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House justice panel finds probable cause in impeach complaint vs. Sereno

After 15 hearings, the House Committee on Justice on Thursday found probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

With a vote of 38 in the affirmative and two in the negative, the panel approved the motion of ABS party-list Representative Eugene Michael De Vera to find probable cause in the complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo "Larry" Gadon against Sereno.

LIST: Solons who voted to find probable cause in Sereno impeach complaint

Only Representatives Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands and Jose Christopher "Kit" Belmonte of Quezon City voted against the motion.

Gadon has accused Sereno of committing acts which serve as ground for her impeachment, such as culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

Following the decision of the panel, a committee report and a resolution will be submitted to the plenary, to be approved by at least one-third of all members of the House of Representatives.

The Articles of Impeachment will then be submitted to the Senate, acting as impeachment court.

Voting in 'totality'

In his earlier interviews, Umali said the panel may vote on each 27 allegation.

But in the hearing, Oriental Mindoro Representative Salvador Leachon noted that there is no need to go over each allegation one-by-one.

"It is my humble opinion that considering that we deliberated all of the charges and in fact, they have been supported with several testimonies coming from all witnesses, I think it will just be a repetition of what had already been established," he said.

"After all, whatever will be the vote of each member, and as a totality, will definitely be passed upon before the plenary. Then again, this will be the subject of the scrutiny of all the members of the House," Leachon added.

Quezon City Representative Vincent Crisologo initially asked that the voting be made for each individual allegation, but AKO BICOL party-list Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr. pointed out that Section 8 of the rules governing impeachment proceedings state that the panel votes in "totality."

Crisologo then withdrew his motion, allowing the panel to proceed in voting on probable cause as a whole.

Following the voting, all the vice chairpersons of the committee were constituted as a small body tasked to draft the committee report on the proceedings as well as the articles of impeachment.

The next meeting of the panel is set on March 14, when the draft committee report is expected to be voted upon.

Sereno not resigning

Sereno, in a speech at the University of Baguio on March 2, asked that she be given her day in the Senate impeachment court "or admit that there is no probable cause."

She dared her accusers to bring the impeachment complaint to what she has long anticipated would be a Senate trial, the preparation for which she claimed was the reason for her leave.

Her camp has expected a Senate trial to happen after the House barred grilling of witnesses in November 2017.

Some senators also said impeachment is the only constitutional way to remove Sereno amid the petition for quo warranto filed by Calida. —KG, GMA News