CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 March 2018

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Move to impeach Philippine chief justice a politcal expedience

MANILA (UCAN): “This is very sad,” said Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, the Philippines, when a congressional committee voted to impeach the country’s Maria Lourdes Sereno, the country’s first female chief justice, who is also an outspoken critic of the president, Rodrigo Duterte.
“Filipinos are no fools. We know what is right and what is false,” the bishop said.
The House Committee on Justice claimed on March 8 that it had sufficient evidence to impeach the chief justice on charges of corruption, failure to fully disclose wealth, and other crimes.
The committee, dominated by Duterte allies, voted 38-to-2 to press ahead with impeachment proceedings against Sereno, an appointee of former president, Benigno Aquino.
Complaints levelled against Sereno range from her supposed tendency to ignore decisions of other justices, her reported mis-declarations of her wealth, and her alleged abuse of privileges.
In a Women’s Day speech, Sereno denied the allegations, calling them politically motivated.
“The current state of the nation is one where perceived enemies of the dominant order are considered fair game for harassment, intimidation and persecution,” she said.
Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte, who voted against the motion, said, “The only thing I am sure of (from the testimonies of witnesses) is that the chief justice does not have a rapport with her colleagues.”
Catholic bishops have expressed disgust over the decision, saying the Lower House of Congress has lost its credibility.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, said he was not surprised by the result of the vote because it was motivated by “political expediency.”
During hearings conducted by the committee, associate justices of the Supreme Court questioned Sereno’s leadership, decision-making, and even accused her of deception and treason.
Deputy house speaker, Raneo Abu, a member of the committee, justified the body’s decision, saying that it only “performed its constitutional duty of making the chief justice accountable for her actions.”
He insisted that, “Due process was followed and observed.” 
However Bishop Pabillo said other law experts think that the issues against the chief justice are “non-impeachable.”
He said, “I do hope that she will get justice from the Senate with an acquittal.”
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, said the proceedings in Congress are “highly politicised” to benefit the ruling political party and the allies of the president.
The bishop said the impeachment process “is being used by people to get rid of who they do not want,” adding that it is “divisive and a distraction from what we must necessarily do for our country.”
Duterte claimed he has nothing to do with the ouster moves of the chief justice in Congress. “I never initiated (anything),” he said.
The House of Representatives will now need one-third of its members to vote in favour of an impeachment trial, which will be conducted by the Senate.

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