By Ellson Quismorio
House Justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali has confirmed the involvement of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in the prosecution team that will attempt to convict Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying he would be of great help.
Umali, in a DZBB interview today, said 94-year-old Enrile would most likely serve as adviser to the private prosecutors that would be tapped by the 11-man House prosecution team that will composed of congressmen.
“Tama po yan…Siya naman ay available para tumulong sa prosecution nito (That’s correct…he is available to help on this prosecution),” replied the Oriental Mindoro 2nd district congressman when asked about reports of Enrile joining the effort to unseat Sereno before the Senate Impeachment Court.
“Adviser siguro (Maybe as an adviser),” Umali said of the nonagenarian’s role, particularly with the private lawyers.
“Hindi pa lang namin pinag-uusapan din pero definitely iba na rin yong meron kaming kasamang [private] practitioners, batikan sa litigation na aming makakasama sa team (We haven’t talked about it yet but definitely it’s an advantage to have private practitioners who have litigation experience on our side),” added Umali, who like Enrile is a lawyer.
On Thursday, the Justice panel voted 38-2 in favor of declaring probable cause in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno, who is an appointee of the previous Aquino administration.
The panel is now busy crafting the Articles of Impeachment which will be used by the Senator-judges in determining the Chief Magistrate’s guilt. A conviction will result in removal from her post.
Umali described the assistance to be provided to them by the veteran Enrile as invaluable, noting that the latter was the presiding judge during the impeachment trial of Sereno’s predecessor, the late Renato Corona.
“Being the first and the presiding judge noong Senate Impeachment Court ay lalo’t higit sa issue ng SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) na ito…sila ang nagdesisyon ay malaking kalinawan at malaking tulong ang maibibigay niya sa prosecution team (He can give huge enlightenment and help to the prosecution team especially on the SALN issue),” the solon said.
Based on this statement, it appears that the Justice panel chairman wants to secure Sereno’s conviction through her SALN troubles, which was the undoing of Corona.
It was learned during the probable cause hearings that Sereno failed to file seven of her SALNs between the years 1986 and 2006 when she was not yet the country’s top magistrate.
In May 2012, Corona was found guilty of Article 2 in the Articles of Impeachment. Article 2 alleged that Corona “failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth” in violation of section 17, Article XI of the Constitution as well as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Then-president Benigno S. Aquino III appointed Sereno as Chief Justice weeks later, making her the first female leader in the judiciary’s history.