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Umali’s fearless forecast: House will ‘overwhelmingly’ vote to oust Sereno

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By: Xave Gregorio

House justice committee chair and Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Rep. Reynaldo Umali confidently said the House of Representatives would vote to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno when it votes on the articles of impeachment his committee finished drafting Monday (March 17).

“You can already safely conclude that the plenary will overwhelmingly approve this committee report and the accompanying articles of impeachment,” Umali said in a media briefing after the panel’s hearing on the committee report and the draft articles of impeachment.

He said the voting on Sereno’s impeachment had always been “lopsided” with only one to three lawmakers rising to oppose motions which would advance the complaint against the Chief Justice further.

“The writing is already on the wall and it would not be difficult to obtain that one third vote from the House in plenary and so that can already be expected,” Umali said.

Only a one-third vote of all members of the House of Representatives is needed for an official to be impeached, which sends the articles of impeachment to the Senate which would hear the case as an impeachment court.

The 292-member House is dominated by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte and has consistently voted overwhelmingly in favor of his policies, including the imposition of martial law in Mindanao and the revival of the death penalty.

In the final hearing of the House justice committee on Sereno’s impeachment, only Quezon City 6th District Rep. Kit Belmonte opposed the motion to approve the committee report setting forth the articles of impeachment against Sereno.

Aside from Belmonte, his fellow Liberal Party members Reps. Kaka Bag-ao and Rav Rocamora also usually oppose motions in the panel in its impeachment proceedings.

Bag-ao and Rocamora, however, were absent in the hearing on Monday, leaving Belmonte standing alone against 33 other lawmakers, including former President and Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

With the House justice committee’s report and draft articles of impeachment finished, these will now be sent to plenary within 10 session days to be voted on.

However, there is no rushing the lower house on impeaching Sereno, as they await the Supreme Court’s ruling on the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General seeking to void her appointment as chief justice.

With only three session days left, Umali said the plenary’s voting on the impeachment of Sereno may happen when they come back from their one-month summer break starting this week — that is, if the High Court does not yet hand down a ruling or if it rules in favor of Sereno.

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