(UPDATED – 9:20 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives’ justice committee found sufficient grounds in the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, paving the way for a more extensive discussion of the charges against her.
But while the 25-2 vote of the panel should also have paved the way for a face-off between Sereno and her accuser, lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, the Chief Justice has said she does not plan to attend the proceedings and prefers to be represented by counsel.
However, Umali has also maintained that only Sereno will be allowed to cross examine the witnesses against her.
The panel will next decide whether there is probable cause against Sereno, Oriental Representative Reynaldo Umali, the committee chairman, said.
“In determining grounds, we take into consideration the pleadings filed (by both parties), if there are sufficient grounds to conduct further hearings,” he said.
Gadon’s complaint lists down 27 alleged acts by Sereno that constitute culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and corruption and other high crimes — the grounds for impeachment.
Stressing it was his personal view, Umali said that Sereno may face her accuser and cross examine witnesses during the hearing to determine probable cause.
“This may be an interesting proceeding that may happen before this committee because, if we allow cross examination by either party, then this will enrich our proceedings,” he said.
“If we allow the lawyers (of Sereno), how can we cross examine the lawyers, how can we ask clarificatory questions from (a lawyer) who is not a party himself or herself?” Umali asked.
Sereno’s lawyers, who attended the hearing, however, insisted that they should be allowed to represent her.
Josalee Deinla also reiterated that the “baseless” complaint against Sereno should be dismissed.
“Sufficiency in grounds means that, necessarily, these should be unlawful or illegal acts and they are of such nature that they would strike at the very core of the essence of government. Ibig sabihin, sobrang grabe ang mga acts na ito, dapat mabigat, hindi gaya ng mga paratang ni Gadon (This means these acts have to be really serious, not like the allegations of Gadon),” she said.
Meanwhile, the committee also voted 26-2 to approve the report dismissing the separate impeachment complaint against Commission on Election chairperson Andres Bautista.
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