After finding probable grounds on the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon, the House Committee on Justice approved six articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The House panel approved the articles of impeachment along with committee report on the impeachment proceedings in its hearing on Monday, with a vote of 33-1.
The articles of impeachment against Sereno is consist of four grounds -- culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes.
Twenty-four of the 27 allegations of Gadon against Sereno were included in the articles of impeachment.
The articles of impeachment are as follows:
Article 1: Non-filing and non-disclosure of Sworn Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth constituting culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust as presented in the "repeated, deliberate, willful and inexcusable" acts of:
A. Misrepresentation that she is a person of proven integrity and probity when she applied for the positions of Associate Justice in 2010 and Chief Justice in 2012, when in truth and in fact she is not, as shown by her overt acts of deceiving and/or misleading the Judicial and Bar Council that she could not submit her SALNs from 1996 to 2006;
B. Failure to declare 11 filed SALNs for 1998, 2002, 2006, 2009, and 2010 to 2016, the 2.24 hectares of land in Mariveles, Bataan registered in the name of spouses Mario Jose Sereno and Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno worth more or less P44 million;
C. Failure to declare in two filed SALN for 2006 and 2009, and to disclose to the public an amount of around P13.8 million, which form part of more than P32 million fees she earned from the PIATCO cases from 2004 to 2009;
D. Failure to file SALN 17 times for the years 1987 to 1997, 1999 to 2001, and 2003 to 2005; and,
E. Commission of tax fraud through failure to truthfully and accurately declare income in her income tax returns for the years 2007 to 2009 and in her value-added tax returns for the years 2005 to 2009, as well as for her failure to pay the corresponding taxes thereon.
Article 2: Misuse of P18 million in public funds which manifested Sereno's alleged "grandiose sense of self-importance" when:
A. She caused the procurement and purchase of a brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser costing more than P5 million as the vehicle for the Chief Justice, which is beyond the norm of the Supreme Court for the Office of the Chief Justice.
B. She caused the hiring and engagement of Helen Macasaet as ICT consultant with excessive compensation totaling to more than P11 million in violation of the procurement law.
C. She caused the selection of Shangri-La Boracay as the venue for the 3rd ASEAN Chief Justices Meeting without the conduct of proper canvassing, and arranged for a room upgrade therein misusing an amount of more or less P3 million of government funds.
Article 3: Arrogation of the powers reposed upon the Supreme Court as a collegial, deliberative and consultative body by issuing and causing to be issued Resolutions and Orders without the approval of, or contrary to what was agreed upon by the Supreme Court en banc, through acts of misrepresentation and manipulation.
A. Sereno culpably violated the Constitution, betrayed public trust and committed other high crimes when she:
1. Created, without authority the Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) in the guise of reopening the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) in Region 7, and made it appear that such creation was sanctioned by the Supreme Court en banc;
2. Issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in the consolidated cases of Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines (Senior Citizens Party List) vs. COMELEC, contrary to rules and procedures of the Supreme Court, and misrepresented that the TRO was issued upon the recommendation of the Member-in-charge Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro;
3. Manipulated the disposition of the urgent request of the Secretary of Justice for the transfer of venue outside of Mindanao of cases involving the members of the Maute and other related groups, and falsely making it appear that the matter was raffled to her in due course, and properly decided by the Supreme Court en banc;
B. Respondent Chief Justice Sereno culpably violated the Constitution and betrayed public trust when she
1. Deliberately ignored prior rulings of the Supreme Court en banc granting survivorship benefits by allowing her employees to question said rulings and to recommended that such rulings be abandoned or overturned, which caused undue delay in the processing and release of survivorship benefits to spouses of deceased judges and Justices;
2. Appointed Atty. Geraldine Faith Econg as head of JDO and Atty. Brenda Jay Angeles-Mendoza as Chief of the Philippine Mediation Center Office without the approval of the Supreme Court en banc;
3. Deliberately failed and refused, without justifiable reason, to appoint qualified applicants to several high-ranking positions in the Supreme Court; and,
4. Ordered the dissemination of erroneous information on what transpired during the en banc deliberations the administrative memorandum on the alleged involvement of four incumbent judges in illegal drugs as well as undermining the co-equal power of the Executive by directing the Executive Secretary to file cases against the four judges.
Article 4: Deliberate and maliciously abuse of her position as the Chief Justice and ex officio Chairperson of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) when she:
A. Deliberately and maliciously manipulated the processes of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to exclude then- Solicitor General, now Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza, from the shortlist of nominees to the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, while illegally acquiring and using a highly confidential document involving national security in the process; and
B. Abused her position as ex officio Chairperson of the JBC in the following instances:
1. Clustering the nominees for the six vacant positions of Associate Justice in the Sandiganbayan without legal basis, thereby impairing the power of the President to appoint members of the Judiciary;
2. Misrepresenting to the members of the Supreme Court En Banc that there were Justices who requested to do away with the voting of recommended applicants to Supreme Court vacant positions;
3. Manipulating the processes of the JBC to exclude Court of Appeals Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas-Peralta from the shortlist of nominees for the position of Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals.
Article 5: Deliberate undermining and violation of the principles of separation of powers among the three branches of government in the following instances:
A. Interfering with the investigation conducted by the House of Representatives, in aid of legislation, on the misuse of P66.45 million tobacco funds in the province of Ilocos Norte by issuing a Joint Statement with the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals asking the House of Representatives to reconsider its Show Cause Order against three Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals, and thereafter directing the CA Justices to question any order issued by the House of Representative and to elevate the matter to the Supreme Court;
B. Deliberately undermining and disrespecting the impeachment proceedings conducted by the House of Representatives against her.
Article 6: Willful and deliberate failure to comply with her oath of office by tyrannical abuse of discretionary power.
The committee report and the articles of impeachment will be transmitted to the House Committee on Rules, which will calendar them for voting in the plenary.
These documents must be approved by at least one-third of all members of the House of Representatives before being transmitted to the Senate, which will act as an impeachment court. —ALG, GMA News