HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has turned down the request of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to allow her legal counsel to directly cross-examine witnesses in the impeachment proceedings against her before the committee on justice, saying there is no provision for such a practice in the rules of procedure.
“That cannot be. The accused here is not the lawyer. The lawyer cannot cross-examine [the witnesses],” Alvarez said.
He said Sereno should cross-examine the resource persons to be presented against her.
“She should face the proceedings because she is the accused. Now, if she does not appear, she should waive [her right]. If she does not face [the proceedings], she would lose the chance to defend herself [against] all that would be said against her,” he added.
Sereno’s lawyer and spokesperson, Josa Deinla, maintained that her lawyers have the right to cross-examine the witnesses as a matter of due process.
“Not one citizen can be denied the due process of law… because this is emphasized in our Constitution,” she said.
The camp of Sereno earlier filed a motion after the failure of the committee to act on her two letters dated Sept. 28 and Oct. 3, requesting that her lawyers be allowed to cross-examine witnesses against her.
Alvarez said due process would be strictly observed—if Sereno appeared before the committee to tell her side.
He dismissed allegations that the House leadership was trying to railroad the impeachment complaint against Sereno.
Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who chairs the committee on justice, said his panel could conduct a hearing on Sereno’s impeachment when Congress resumes session on Nov. 20, or after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit, which is being hosted in Manila this year.
Umali said his committee has yet to decide whether to grant Sereno’s request to allow her lawyers to represent her and cross-examine the witnesses.
A private lawyer, Lorenzo Gadon, filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno for culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes, including untruthful declaration of her wealth.
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