THE House of Representatives will decide on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno before it goes on recess for summer.

Representative Reynaldo Umali, chair of the House committee on justice, said they will determine on Thursday, March 8, whether there is probable cause to oust Sereno.

In the following week, the same committee will vote on the committee report together with the articles of impeachmnent.

Once approved, the articles of impeachment will be submitted to the plenary for action before Congress closes its session for the summer break.

The 1987 Constitution provides that at least one-third of all the members of the House shall file the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment, which will then be forwarded to the Senate for trial.

Meanwhile, Umali said he sees no conflict between the ongoing impeachment proceedings at the House and the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG or Solgen) before the Supreme Court.

"None at all kasi ang impeachment presupposes a valid appointment while quo warranto questions the qualifications of an office," Umali said in an interview on Monday, March 5.

Umali said although the Chief Justice is qualified under the Constitution, she should also comply with the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) rules as it forms part of the law.

Earlier in the day, the Solgen asked the Supreme Court through a quo warranto petition to invalidate the appointment of Sereno and oust her from her office.

The OSG cited as one of the grounds Sereno's failure to submit her Statement of Assets Liabities and Networth to the JBC which allegedly proves her lack of integrity.

Read: Solgen says Sereno 'unlawfully holding' Chief Justice post

Solgen petition criticized

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, for his part, slammed Calida for filing the petition before the SC while he can file it before any lower court.

He also criticized the Solgen for filing the petition even as the one-year period within which to file the action has prescribed five years ago, pursuant to Section 11 of Rule 66 of the Rules of Court.

The OSG, in its petition, said it went to the SC as the issues raised are of transcendental importance as it involves the Chief Justice.

The OSG also argued that it came to know that the appointement was invalid only when the committee on justice tackled the impeachment complaint against Sereno.

Lagman said the appointment of Sereno complied with the basic requirements of the Constitution and pointed out that no less than the JBC endorsed her appointment to then President Benigno Aquino III.

"An appointment enjoys the presumption of validity and a proffered argument that it is void ab initio if not favored," said Lagman.

Lagman also believes that the associate justices who testified against Sereno in the previous impeachment hearing at the House should inhibit.

"The quo warranto petition gives the subject seven justices the opportunity to pursue their scheme in removing the chief magistrate without waiting for the constitutional process of a Senate impeachment trial," Lagman alleged.

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, meanwhile, warned that a constitutional crisis will arise if Congress will assert its exclusive powers to oust the Chief Justice once the SC acts on the matter.

He said Sereno passed the basic qualifications set forth by the Constitution, thus her appointment is valid and only impeachment can remove her from her post.

The Constitution provides that applicants to the judiciary must be a natural-born citizen, at least 40 years old, must have been in the practice of law for at least 15 years and a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.

"Kung meron ka nitong lahat 'di ka pwedeng alisin sa iyong katungkulan maliban na lang kung ikaw ay i-impeach," Batocabe said in a press conference.

(If you have these qualifications, you cannot be removed from your post unless you are impeached.)

If the SC declares the Chief Justice's appointment invalid, Congress should respect its decision and withraw the articles of impeachment.

In the meantime, Batocabe said the impeachment proceedings will continue while the Congress is awaiting for the SC's action.

Batocabe also said he believes that the SC's action on the petition against the Chief Justice could also open the floodgates to other quo warranto proceedings against impeachable officers, thus emasculating the power of the Congress against impeachable officials. (SunStar Philippines)