IN less than 10 minutes, the House Committee on Justice dismissed the seven impeachment complaints filed against Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and six other associate justices of the Supreme Court.
The 22 members of the committee present at yesterday’s hearing voted in favor of the committee report which states the junking of the impeachment case.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was present at the proceeding and even voted to dismiss the case.
No member voted against the dismissal.
Complainants Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano were not present during the hearing.
Chairman of the committee Rep. Doy Leachon said since the complaint is insufficient in substance it is just proper to dismiss the case.
While the complaints of the three opposition solons are sufficient in form, members of the committee found them lacking substance to proceed with the trial.
Based on the complaints, the magistrates violated the Constitution when they voted in favor of the quo warranto petition ousting former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Aside from De Castro, also cleared by the committee were Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza; Andres Reyes Jr.; Alexander Gesmundo; Noel Tijam and Diosdado Peralta.
The complainants said the justices were guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust when they did not respect the jurisdiction of the Congress in ousting an impeachable official of the government like the Chief Justice.
In the presentation of arguments, administration solons pointed out that justices merely acted within the means and bounds of the Constitution when they decided on the quo warranto petition filed against Sereno.
Leachon also said that Lagman did not submit any rejoinder or motion for reconsideration.
The committee report will be submitted to the plenary for concurrence of the majority members.
In a press conference, Lagman said the committee report is invalid because it did not comply with the impeachment rules.
According to Lagman, under the impeachment rules, the committee report or any resolution to dismiss should be e voted upon by the “absolute majority” of all the members.
“The Committee on Justice has 68 members (34 regular and 34 ex-officio), therefore the absolute majority is 35 (half plus 1). The 22 votes cannot approve the committee report, and it is invalid,” Lagman said.