Wednesday, 22 February 2012 10:31
Voting 38-10, the House Justice Committee on Tuesday found probable cause to impeach Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo for betrayal of public trust.
The impeachment case against Del Castillo arose from a plagiarism case he allegedly committed when he wrote the SC decision about comfort women.
Justice Committee Chair Neil Tupas Jr. said the decision of the panel effectively raises the standards for SC justices.
“The standards for SC justices were effectively raised with this decision as it makes plagiarism now an impeachable offense,” he said.
He said that his committee will transmit its report together with the articles of impeachment to the House plenary not later than Monday next week.
Tupas said that the plenary would then have 60 session days wherein to decide to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
The determination for probable cause is the last stage of the process of impeachment in the committee level.
The verified impeachment complaint against Del Castillo was referred to the Justice Committee on February 2, 2011. The committee found the complaint sufficient in form on May 18, 2011 with a vote of 11 for and 10 against with one abstention.
On December 7, 2011, the Justice committee found the complaint sufficient in substance, this time with a vote of 40 in favor and only seven against with no abstention.
Members of the House minority tried to have the voting deferred to a later date but were prevailed upon by the majority of the committee members.
Minority Floor Leader Danilo Suarez said that Del Castillo would be undergoing a quintuple heart bypass operation on February 27 and asked that the voting be deferred until the said medical operation shall have been finished.
On the other hand, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman argued that plagiarism is not an impeachable offense, but to no avail.
After the voting, Tupas said that he personally preferred for the Del Castillo case to be heard by the Senate after the case against Chief Justice Renato Corona for obvious reasons.
“It is improbable for the Senate and the House of Representatives to try two cases at the same time. We hope to finish the case against the Chief Justice in two months' time, the same time for the House plenary to wrap up plenary debates against Del Castillo,” he said.
If the impeachment complaint does end up being transmitted to the Senate, Tupas said that the Del Castillo case would be faster to prosecute.
“It may not be easier but it is simpler and would be faster to convict or acquit as it involves only one article of impeachment, betrayal of public trust,” Tupas said.
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