By Ben Rosario
Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza on Saturday lauded the Judicial and Bar Council for ignoring the impeachment complaint filed by a group of opposition lawmakers against the three final nominees to the vacant Chief Justice post of the Supreme Court.
Atienza said complainants led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman should expect a similar snub from the House of Representatives where a big majority of its members were supportive of the initiation last year of the impeachment bid against former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno who was ousted on a quo warranto petition that the SC upheld.
In a press statement, Lagman chided the JBC for sending to Malacañang the shortlist of nominees to the vacant chief justice post.
“It is a hollow and self-serving rhetoric to claim that the JBC does not need to consider the disqualification of the shortlisted justices because the impeachment complaints against them are not pending while awaiting congressional action,” Lagman said..
Lagman, together with fellow oppositionists Rep. Teddy Baguilat (LP, Ifugao), Gary Alejano (Magdalo Party-list) and Tom Villarin (Akbayan Party-list), filed on Wednesday an impeachment complaint against seven SC justices, three of whom were included in the shortlist candidates for Sereno’s post.
“The filing of impeachment complaint is a waste of money. It will fail as a tool for political vendetta and propaganda,” Atienza said.
“Even if our plenary schedule will permit, there is no way the impeachment can get much-needed support to be elevated to trial before the Senate,” he stated.
Atienza agreed with colleagues that the Lower House may not have time to act on the impeachment case. The legislative calendar indicates there are less than 80 session days remaining for the Lower Chamber to act on the impeachment case.
Facing impeachment were Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Teresita De Castro and Diosdado Peralta who made it to the final list of nominees for chief justice.
Also charged were Associate Justices Andres Reyes, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Alexander Gesmundo.
Complainants claimed the seven SC magistrates were guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for taking part in the SC decision that upheld the quo warranto petition and resulted in the ouster of Sereno.
Opposition stalwart Rep. Eugene Michael De Vera (ABS Party-list) noted that effectively there are about 66 session days whereby the House can resolve the cases, not counting the regular session days past the May mid-term elections.
“Impeachment complainants will also have to contend with the budget process and a few other legislative priorities of the administration which are expected to be relentlessly pursued by the leadership,” noted De Vera, who actively participated in the Sereno impeachment process that started last year.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said a resolution of the case before the end of the 17th Congress appear to be “very unlikely.”
“We do not have the luxury of time. There are many pending legislative measures in the House now,” Castelo said.
On the other hand, Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting remained positive that the House leadership will try its best in disposing of the impeachment case despite the limited time.
“Regardless of the number of days, a process was initiated. I am confident the House leadership will take all things into consideration in addressing this issue,” Tambunting said.