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CJ won’t attend impeachment hearing

“Please remember, as the chief magistrate of the Supreme Court she’s wearing so many hats. She has to run six offices. These tasks exact or demand her full attention. Besides, she does not want to be distracted from her duties as the Chief Justice,” counsel Josa Deinla said. File

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will not attend any of the hearings that will be conducted by the House of Representatives with regard to the impeachment complaint filed against her, one of her lawyers said yesterday. 

“Please remember, as the chief magistrate of the Supreme Court she’s wearing so many hats. She has to run six offices. These tasks exact or demand her full attention. Besides, she does not want to be distracted from her duties as the Chief Justice,” counsel Josa Deinla said.

Sereno heads the full 15-member tribunal, the judiciary’s screening body Judicial and Bar Council, is titular head of the SC’s First Division, presiding officer of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal and oversees the entire judiciary, including all its personnel. 

Deinla reiterated the chief magistrate, widely considered the chief executive officer of the entire third branch of government, still prefers that her lawyers cross-examine the witnesses, which may include six incumbent SC justices, among others. 

“These rights would be rendered useless and would have no meaning if, as chairman Rey Umali says, the CJ’s lawyers are not allowed to conduct cross examination, much less speak, during the hearings that may be conducted by the committee on justice,” she said, referring to Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House committee on justice.

Deinla said it would set a dangerous precedent if Umali refuses to allow the lawyers to cross-examine the witnesses against their client.

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Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque maintained Sereno must follow the House rules on impeachment proceedings.

“There, she’s the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court. But in the House, she has to comply with our rules,” he said.

The House committee on justice is expected to vote today on the sufficiency of the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno.

Gadon accused the chief magistrate of culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution.

“We will be voting on sufficient grounds for impeachment. We will have to look at the complaint based on the reply of Sereno and the complainant’s rejoinder,” Umali said.

If the panel finds the grounds sufficient after taking into account pleadings from both sides, congressmen will move to the next stage of determining probable cause of the complaint, Umali said.

“As a committee, we have to weigh whether that particular allegations plus the answer will still weigh in and would constitute a ground for impeachment. The committee secretary is processing it now; looking into each and every allegation of the complaint,” he added. 

After the committee finds sufficient ground, it will call on the complainant and the respondent to present their case before the panel votes on the determination of probable cause.

If probable cause is found, the Articles of Impeachment will be constituted and sent to the Senate for trial upon approval by the plenary, where the constitutional one-third vote will be required.

Gadon disbarment

Lawyers Algamar Latiph and Musa Malayang, on the other hand, urged the SC to act on the disbarment complaint they filed against Gadon.

The complaint was based on Gadon’s television interviews during the campaign when he made hateful remarks against the Muslims in Mindanao when asked how he plans to address rebellion by some groups there.

In the interviews, Gadon was quoted as saying he would pulverize Muslim communities if they will not cooperate in the government’s bid to address the insurgency and rebellion problem in the region.

He also said he would exterminate innocent children, women, men and old folks and burn houses if they would ignore his plea to work together with the government.

“Based on the news accounts, there were two other cases filed against the respondent for the same above facts. We respectfully pray for the honorable court to favorably act on the complaint,” read the letter.

The complainants said they filed the complaint in April last year but have not received any update. –Edu Punay, Evelyn Macairan

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