House panel votes against participation of non-members in Sereno impeach hearings
The House committee on justice overwhelmingly approved the motion to prevent non-members of the committee from participating in the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Voting 30-3, justice committee members approved Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia’s motion to allow non-members to attend but not participate or speak during the deliberation of Sereno’s impeachment case.
Opposition lawmakers – Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao, Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman and Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin – submitted position papers asking the committee to allow non-members to ask questions and speak during the impeachment proceedings.
The said lawmakers also moved that the counsel of Sereno be allowed to cross-examine the complainant.
“Members of the House should be allowed to participate because this is more than ordinary legislation. This will decide the fate and fortune of impeachable officers,” Lagman said.
But Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas argued that if all 293 House members will be allowed to participate, the committee will not finish deliberating the impeachment.
“This is a constitutional process. If it is allowed, that will be a dangerous procedure,” Fariñas said.
Objecting the motion, Bag-ao, who is a member of the committee, said management of the members would be the solution, not denying the right of non-members to participate.
“Sa karanasan ko, wala pa kong committee na na burden sa presence ng non-committee members,” she said.
The committee, chaired by Oriental Mindoro District Rep. Reynaldo Umali, is set to determine the probable cause to remove Sereno from office. /kga
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