THREE more Supreme Court justices are expected to testify against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in the impeachment hearings before the House committee on justice, the panel chairman said Monday.
At the same time, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the committee, brushed aside claims by the complainant, Lorenzo Gadon, that he received information that an “oligarch” planned to bribe senators P200 million each to acquit Sereno at her impeachment trial.
“I do not want to be bothered by it,” Umali said of Gadon’s claim. “It could be hearsay.”
Umali said his panel would not likely act on Gadon’s information and would instead “focus on the more important matters of establishing the charges.”
Umali said his panel invited Associate Justices Francis H. Jardeleza and Noel G. Tijam and Retired Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion to attend the impeachment proceeding on Dec. 11.
Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro, in an unprecedented move, appeared before the House justice panel on Nov. 29 to shed light on instances when Sereno acted without the approval of the full Court as she is required to do.
Umali said his committee would understand should the justices fail to appear before his committee because the Court has yet to promulgate the final text of the Nov. 28 en banc decision permitting justices to testify on administrative matters.
“Some of the resource persons requested that they be allowed to testify only after the decision is promulgated. I urge the Supreme Court to immediately promulgate it to make things clear,” Umali said.
Among the allegations in the Gadon’s impeachment complaint were Sereno’s alleged manipulation of the Judicial and Bar Council’s nomination proceedings to block Jardeleza’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez is among the resource persons in Tuesday’s impeachment proceedings to talk about the allegedly delayed action on the numerous petitions for judges’ retirement benefits or spouses’ survivorship benefits.
Umali, meanwhile, said his panel would vote on the probable cause of the impeachment complaint by January “to accommodate more witnesses.”
House sources said the justice panel would have to work double time to come up with an airtight case against Sereno as about nine senators will likely turn down the impeachment complaint against the chief magistrate.
At least 16 out of 23 senators or a two-third vote of the Senate is needed to convict Sereno.
Gadon accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes for her alleged litany of lapses including untruthful declaration of her wealth.
During the impeachment of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, senators sitting as impeachment judges who voted to convict were rewarded millions of pesos from the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program.