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The Philippines

Philippines chief justice facing impeachment after lawmakers agree to proceed with complaint

President Rodrigo Duterte accuses top court official of not declaring past earnings, using expensive vehicles and staying in suites on foreign trips

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 October, 2017, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 October, 2017, 9:13pm

A Philippine congressional committee on Thursday allowed an impeachment complaint against the country’s chief justice to proceed a day after President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted to submit further charges against her and an anticorruption official.

The House justice committee, dominated by Duterte’s allies, voted 25 to 2 to find sufficient grounds to allow more extensive discussion of the complaint filed by a lawyer against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The complaint cited 27 grounds for impeachment, including alleged corruption and culpable violation of the constitution.

Opposition lawmakers criticised the committee’s rush to vote without thoroughly discussing each allegation in the complaint.

Sereno has called for the complaint’s dismissal, saying the allegations are totally false and “nothing short of an impeachment exercise based on fake news”.

Duterte earlier accused Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Morales of allowing themselves to be used to discredit his administration. Both officials have denied any wrongdoing.

And in addition to the complaint voted on by the justice committee, Duterte said on Wednesday that he wanted to file a new impeachment charge against Sereno and Morales.

Without elaborating or offering evidence, Duterte said Sereno did not declare some of her earnings as a lawyer in one past case. He also accused her of using expensive vehicles and staying in suites on foreign trips.

He said Morales’ anticorruption agency allowed the use of illegally obtained or fabricated information, supposedly from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, to launch an investigation into allegations Duterte kept undeclared wealth in past bank accounts.

Duterte has denied the allegations and challenged the two officials to resign along with him and to open their bank accounts to scrutiny.

Morales and Sereno have denied any wrongdoing and rejected Duterte’s challenge.