BASTA WALANG BASTUSAN | Sereno now open to showing up at House hearings on impeachment complaint

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House Committee on Justice Chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali (left) and Majority floor leader Rep. Rodolfo Farinas preside over a Sept. 13 hearing on the verified complaint for impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. BOY SANTOS, PHIL. STAR

MANILA – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is now open to the possibility of showing up at the hearings on the impeachment complaint filed against her at the House of Representatives, one of her spokespersons said.

“There is always that option, if it’s available, if it’s the right time, if it will be the right strategy, then we will not close the door on any possible, maybe, active participation on the part of the Chief Justice,” lawyer Winnie Salumbides said in an interview.

He added, “But all of these will be done in consultation with the Chief Justice’s legal defense team. But it depends on the invitation.”

The House justice committee earlier found the complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon sufficient in grounds to proceed with the next phase of determination of probable cause. The hearings, expected to take place in November when sessions resume, will present the witnesses against Sereno, and will see the face-off between Sereno and Gadon.

Gadon accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption and other high crimes, which are all grounds for impeachment. Sereno’s lawyers said the allegations were baseless.

Sereno’s lawyers, however, earlier said the chief magistrate will not attend the hearings, and asked the justice committee, through two letters, to instead allow them to represent her. While not yet formally ruling on the matter, members of the committee and House leaders, led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Sereno will be allowed to speak.

Salumbides, who was with Sereno during her visit to Kamuning Bakery on Monday, said he hopes the hearings would not be used to “undermine” the Chief Justice.

Kung ang pakay ay para ipahiya si Chief Justice Sereno, para ang kanyang dignidad ay i-undermine [if the objective is to shame the Chief Justice and undermine her dignity], definitely, we will not take part in such activity or proceedings or hearings,” he said.

He reiterated that “all legal options” would be considered by Sereno in facing the charges.