Sereno told anew to attend impeach probe
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno must attend the impeachment proceedings against her in the House of Representatives or she will lose the right to confront her accuser and his witnesses, Rep. Reynaldo Umali said on Sunday.
Umali said the House justice committee would consider Sereno’s absence from the hearing on Wednesday a waiver of her right to cross-examine the witnesses.
“It’s up to her decision if she would attend or not. And, if she does not attend, it’s her own lookout because I don’t know how the allegations or charges against her can be controverted without her attendance,” Umali, the justice committee chair, said in a radio interview.
“That would be a waiver of her right to confront the witnesses or the accusers,” he said, adding that if Sereno did not attend, the determination of probable cause for the House plenary to impeach her would be based on uncontroverted allegations.
Umali said “our process in Congress, especially in impeachment,” required the respondent’s personal presence, unlike other legal proceedings where one can be represented by a lawyer.
Stressing that impeachment proceedings are sui generis, he said “the rights to counsel are not established here,” unlike in a court trial.
“Under the [Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House of Representatives], the lawyer cannot speak for the respondent,” he added.
Umali also brushed aside the plans of Sereno’s legal team to question any unfavorable move by the House in the Supreme Court.
He hinted that Sereno “is again courting constitutional crisis” if her camp follows through on the plan, stressing that only Congress can rule on impeachment issues.
“The Supreme Court is not the proper venue for that because the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over impeachment cases, because the Constitution clearly says the impeachment court is the sole judge of any issues pertaining to impeachment,” Umali said.
On the other hand, he said the committee members would still discuss and vote on the motion filed by Sereno’s lawyers to allow them to represent her in the House.
On Nov. 16, Sereno was sent a letter of invitation signed by acting committee secretary Rene Delorino.
Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman also submitted a position paper to the justice committee on Nov. 15 stressing that Sereno should not be denied her right “to be heard by himself and counsel … to meet the witnesses face to face” under Section 14(2), Article III of the Constitution.
The impeachment complainant, Lorenzo Gadon, a former lawyer for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, accused Sereno of manipulating various Supreme Court decisions and court appointments.
He alleged that Sereno also bought an overpriced bulletproof Toyota Land Cruiser and failed to disclose a P30-million attorney’s fee that she received for representing the government in its suit against Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc.
Sereno denies all the accusations. —Vince F. Nonato
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.