Umali, Fariñas: Sereno impeachment different from Corona trial

MANILA, Philippines – Two House leaders on Thursday, March 8, emphasized that the impeachment processes against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and her predecessor, the late Renato Corona, are two very different stories.

“What we have here now is the tale of two impeachment cases of two chief justices,” noted House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, as the House justice committee met to vote on probable cause in an impeachment complaint against Sereno on Thursday, March 8.

Committee chairman Reynaldo Umali echoed this opinion, and said that the case of Corona only went through half the process – the Senate trial.

What’s happening? The committee, after 18 hearings over several months, has been deliberating on a complaint against Sereno filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

On March 8, the committee deemed the complaint to have probable cause, meaning it found enough reason to recommend Sereno’s impeachment. READ: House panel votes: Impeach Sereno)

The House plenary, through a vote, can affirm or reject this committee decision. If affirmed, Sereno is deemed impeached.

Context. Fariñas, of all House members and leaders, would know the importance of being thorough in preparing an impeachment complaint.

Back in 2012, he was among the House prosecutors for the Corona impeachment even if he did not sign it in the first place because "it was rushed."

“We were invited to Andaya Hall one afternoon and everybody was lining up to sign the impeachment case against [Corona],” recalled Fariñas, noting that over 100 lawmakers signed the 55-page complaint.

When asked during the impeachment trial why he didn’t endorse the Corona complaint, Fariñas jokingly told senators that he was not a fast reader, unlike his colleagues in the House.

He only agreed to serve as prosecutor because the House Speaker then, Feliciano Belmonte Jr, “prevailed upon" him.

Even more context. Umali and Fariñas are correct in asserting key differences in the two impeachment trials. Corona’s was swift – since more than a third of House members endorsed it, he was considered impeached immediately.

Only 25 lawmakers endorsed Gadon’s complaint against Sereno – and the complaint definitely went through the process.  The committee first decided if it was sufficient in form, substance, and grounds before the eventual probable cause vote. (READ: LOOK: House panel vote on probable cause in Sereno impeachment)

Critics of the committee in the House, however, are saying the two complaints do have something in common – it was all political, a point that the House panel would expectedly disagree with. (READ: How similar are the Sereno and Corona impeachment cases?) –