By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives officially initiated on Tuesday the impeachment process against newly installed Supreme Court Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and six other SC officials by referring the complaints to the committee on justice.
The additional reference of business was read on the floor immediately after Senior Minority Leader and Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza moved for adjournment, noting that there were no longer enough “warm bodies” to constitute a quorum.
The swift referral to the committee on justice was ordered by former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal although, under the House rules on impeachment, she is entitled to ten session days to make the move.
Mindoro Oriental Rep. Doy Leachon, chairman of the justice panel, said initial hearing will be on September 4.
According to Leachon the 55-man House panel will proceed immediately in determining sufficiency in form and in substance of the impeachment cases.
With the formal initiation of the cases, all seven respondents will be immune from impeachment charges within a one-year period even if the current cases are dismissed.
Aside from De Castro, charged separately were Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, Andres Reyes, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Alexander Gesmundo.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, together with Reps. Teddy Brawner Baguilat (LP, Ifugao) and Gary Alejano (Magdalo Party-list), accused the seven magistrates of committing culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust for issuing a ruling that upheld the quo warranto petition and led to the ouster of Ma. Lourdes Sereno as chief justice.