House defers plenary voting on Sereno impeachment

THERE will be no House plenary voting on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno anytime soon, House Majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas said on Tuesday, March 6.

Fariñas said he was inclined to wait for the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) on the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which seeks to oust Sereno from her position over her supposed invalid appointment.

"Wala, no vote… no vote on plenary, sa committee lang. It will come to the Committee on Rules. Pag-aaralan ko rin iyan kung kumpleto yung articles of impeachment, because when you vote, kailangan nang naka-ready yung articles of impeachment," Fariñas said.

(There will be no plenary voting, just in the committee level. I still have to study the articles of impeachment because when you vote, the articles of impeachment have to be ready.)

The House committee on justice, the committee that heard the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno, will vote on Thursday, March 8, on whether there is probable cause to impeach Sereno.

Fariñas said he would rather wait for the SC ruling.

He noted that even in the natural progression of time, the SC could still overtake the ongoing process at the House.

"So the power to impeach, kasama na rin diyan when to impeach, hindi ba? So kapag nakikita namin… ako lang ha, this is my view as chairman of the Committee on Rules, pag nakikita ko na may serious challenge on the legitimacy of the officer in question, hintayin ko muna yun dahil hindi naman… this will be of utmost importance by the Supreme Court, that will be resolved in a month’s time, hindi naman magtatagal iyan," Fariñas said.

He noted that after the justice panel hands to the House committee on rules its decision including the articles of impeachment, the latter committee which he chairs will be given 10 session days to include the committee report in the calendar of business.

He said the 10-day rule makes it impossible for his committee to elevate the justice committee's report to the plenary in the following week as the Congress has only seven session days left.

Fariñas said his committee can only include the report in the calendar of business for the plenary's voting when the House resumes its session in May.

"Pag maisama man sa order of business iyan, plenary has 60 session days also, so plenary has until October 31," he said.

"May 14, that’s the soonest that we can take it up in plenary," Fariñas added.

In a separate interview, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the process at the House will continue simultaneously with the quo warranto proceedings at the Court.

"Tuloy pa rin yun, tuloy pa rin yun kasi magkahiwalay naman yun. Kami naman, ia-assume namin na valid yung appointment niya," he said.

(The impeachment proceedings will continue because this is separate from the quo warranto petition. On our part, we will assume that her appointment was valid.)

Asked if the House of Representatives will wait for the SC's decision, he said: "Puwedeng hintayin, puwede namang hindi… kaya lang nagmamadali si Sereno, sinasabi niya ay umpisahan na natin… ang sabi ko nga mag-enjoy muna sa bakasyon," he said.

(We can wait for it, or not. But it seems Sereno is in a rush. I suggest that Sereno enjoy her vacation.)

Alvarez said he will leave it to Fariñas to decide if he will wait for the SC's ruling.

If the SC rules in favor of the OSG, Alvarez said the House will no longer pursue the impeachment as it will be deemed moot.

"Hindi, kasi ang mangyayari diyan, kapagka halimbawa ano, nag-grant yung Supreme Court ng quo warranto, ibig sabihin na-invalidate yung appointment, so ano pa yung i-impeach namin, wala na," Alvarez said. (SunStar Philippines))
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