Sereno seeks right to cross examine impeachment witnesses
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who faces an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives, on Thursday filed a letter seeking her right to cross-examine the witnesses against her.
In her letter filed before the House justice committee, Sereno through her lawyers said the witnesses to be presented against her were not mere “resource persons,” but are witnesses who may be cross-examined by her counsels, who would represent her in the proceedings.
“In sum, we humbly submit that under House Rules, persons who would testify during the hearing would not be considered mere ‘resource persons’ who would be questioned solely by committee members. Those persons would be full-fledged witnesses, who would be examined by a proponent, and cross-examined by an opponent,” her letter read.
Sereno in her letter cited Section 6 of the House rules, which states that during “submission of evidence,” the House committee has the “power to issue compulsory processes for the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents and other related evidence.”
She said the rules thus afford both complainant and respondent “the rights to examine and cross-examine, albeit subject to reasonable time limits.”
The chief magistrate said unlike other rules of procedure for the determination of probable cause, “the House rules do not prohibit the parties from examining or cross-examining witnesses.”
“On the contrary, the House rules allows both examination and cross-examination of witnesses. Section 6 of the House Rules provides that the Hon. Committee, ‘through the chairperson, may limit the period of examination and cross-examination,'” Sereno said.
Sereno through her lawyers said even justice committee chairperson Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali reportedly said the chief justice has the “constitutional right to confront the witnesses.”
In an interview after the filing, Sereno’s lawyer Josalee Deinla read a statement from Sereno’s spokesperson Carlo Cruz, who said there were “alarming indications that she will be denied the right to cross-examine those that will bear witness against her.”
“There’s no place for fake news in Congress. Paano malalaman ang katotohanan kung isang panig lamang?” Deinla said.
Meanwhile, lawyer Anzen Dy said it would only be fair for Chief Justice to be accorded that right if the complainant would be presenting witnesses against her.
“If the complainant will be allowed to present witnesses, hindi po ba patas lamang na ang Chief Justice ay mapapayagan din naman na makapagcross-examine?” Dy said.
In a phone interview with reporters, Umali said the House rules do not allow lawyers to speak for their clients.
He added that cross examination and direct examination would be allowed during a hearing on determination of probable cause, which would follow the stage now for the sufficiency of grounds to be determined by the committee.
“Kapag ang naging botohan namin will be for sufficiency of grounds, then we will go to hearings. Then that’s when the complainant and respondent will be invited to present their case,” Umali said.
He added that the rules did not allow the respondent to be represented by a counsel in House hearings. He said it would be up to the Chief Justice if she personally attend the impeachment proceedings.
Umali said the House was not depriving Sereno her right to due process, adding that she could seek allies in the lower House to pursue her cause.
“We are not depriving anyone of his or her right to confront witnesses. If she wants to confront witnesses, she can confront them personally, subject to the decision of the body politic,” Umali said.
“Hindi naman lahat ng congressman ay pabor sa impeachment. So they have to find an ally who will support her cause,” he added. /cbb
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