Lagman: It’s not job of House to gather evidence vs Sereno
It is not the job of the House justice committee to gather evidence against impeachable officials, but to weigh whatever evidence is presented, an opposition lawmaker said on Saturday.
Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay made the argument as he criticized Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for saying the justice panel will “continue gathering evidence” if Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno refuses to resign amid the impeachment rap against her.
“The role of the House Committee on Justice is to weigh the evidence, not to gather evidence to plug the gaping holes in the [Lorenzo] Gadon impeachment complaint,” Lagman said in a statement.
He said it was the committee’s duty to “determine probable cause principally based on the complaint and evidence adduced by Gadon, and not to build up the case for Gadon.”
“The committee must act as an impartial investigator, not an intrepid sleuth,” said Lagman, who was barred from speaking during the hearing because he is not a member of the justice committee.
“While Gadon is grinning at the sidelines, the committee members are the ones requesting for the appearance of invited witnesses to whom they instantly direct questions, instead of allowing Gadon to first initiate the direct examination,” he said.
Alvarez, in a radio interview on Friday, said the impeachment proceeding would grind to a halt if Sereno resigned, but the panel would continue building up a case against her if she did not.
Justice committee chair Reynaldo Umali had explained during the panel’s first hearing on Nov. 22 that the committee could actually summon witnesses and subpoena documents to determine probable cause in the impeachment case against Sereno.
Umali said the committee was supposed to establish probable cause, which he defined as a “well-founded belief in a reasonable mind that an offense has been committed and the person charged is probably guilty.”
He stressed that a finding of probable cause “does not require inquiry if there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction.”
Earlier, the justice committee found the impeachment complaint sufficient in form and substance and with sufficient grounds.
But the panel was criticized when Gadon admitted during the first and second hearings that he lacked personal knowledge and official records to prove some of his allegations against the Chief Justice.
On Wednesday, the panel heard testimonies of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez, giving weight to two of Gadon’s allegations that Sereno undermined the authority of the entire court in some of her actions.
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