CJ Sereno need not attend impeach hearings

MANILA -- Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno does not have to accept the invitation to appear before the House Justice Committee's hearing on the impeachment case against her, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.

In a statement on Friday, Lagman said the Chief Justice can "effectively and legally appear" through her counsel, who could also conduct cross-examination on her behalf.

According to House Justice Committee chair Reynaldo Umali, his panel has already invited Sereno to appear during the November 22 hearing.

The panel will determine if there is probable cause in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. The complaint has already been deemed sufficient in form, substance, and grounds.

Lagman also reiterated that respondent Sereno has the right to be represented by counsel and to cross-examine witnesses through her lawyers during the impeachment proceedings.

"Both the Constitution and the House Rules on Impeachment, strengthened by entrenched jurisprudence, accord a respondent in an impeachment case, which is akin to a criminal prosecution, the right to retain a counsel of her choice and the corollary right to have her counsel conduct the cross-examination," Lagman said.

"The opinion of Umali that the Chief Justice herself must make the cross-examination is an utter derogation of the respondent's right to counsel, who is not a useless appendage in the proceedings," he added.

Gadon's complaint contains four grounds for impeachment including culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust. It also alleged 27 acts constituting the offenses charged.

Umali said his panel will still conduct hearings on the impeachment complaint, noting that they have until March 20, 2018 to submit a report on their findings.

Source: Philippine News Agency