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High Court chief’s dilemma

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After several weeks of hearings, the House of Representatives Committee on Justice concluded on February 27 its proceedings on the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno. And before Congress goes into recess next month, the plenary will make a final decision on the committee’s recommendation on whether or not there is or are enough grounds to elevate the complaint before the Upper Chamber which will then, acting as the Senate Impeachment Tribunal, make an open trial of the case.

 

Judging from what had transpired at the House justice panel, it could be surmised that all odds seem to be against the Chief Justice now. The participation and testimony of at least nine Associate Justices, the Court Administrator and several officials and employees in the hearings, unprecedented in the annals of the High Court’s history, clearly indicated the unpopularity of the Chief Justice among his colleagues and a divided Supreme Court. That they testified on the alleged abuse of authority and misdeeds, true or not, put to doubt or bad light the Chief Justice and High Court itself. Add to the litany of 27 alleged offenses in the complaint reported tax evasion, failure to file complete Statement of Assets and Liabilities, non-declaration of complete earnings and properties and others.

 

A Supreme Court Chief Justice could only be impeached on the basis of those provided for the Constitution and those allegations other than those listed could not be used to oust the highest justice official of the land. While time and again, the Chief Justice and her lawyers vehemently denied the allegations against her although Mrs. Sereno abandoned her right to answer them before House committee and that her lawyers were barred under the rules to participate in the hearings, it may be good for the Chief Justice that the complaint against her be elevated in the Senate because here, she, assisted by her witnesses and lawyers, could be heared and given her day in court as she refutes each and every complaint, allegations, innuendoes and others. In the meantime, she has taken her leave to study her options in fighting her accusers just like what her predecessor, Chief Justice Renato Corona, did but to no avail. Young as she is, her supporters are certain she would be steadfast in her decision as resignation, she stressed, is never an option.      

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