By Ellson Quismorio
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez insisted that the House of Representatives has been nothing but fair to Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is the subject of an impeachment complaint.
According to Alvarez, “exhibit A” of this fairness is the willingness of the House to have Sereno over to personally confront the witnesses to be presented by the complainant, lawyer Larry Gadon.
“Kaya nga may hearing dito sa House of Representatives. Bibigyan ka ng panahon para magpaliwanag. So fair talaga ‘yung treatment dyan (That’s why we’re having hearings here in the House of Representatives. You are given the time to explain. So the treatment there is really fair),” said Alvarez, secretary general of ruling party Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
In the series of hearings conducted so far by the House committee on justice chaired by Oriental Mindoro Alfonso Umali, the verified complaint against the Chief Justice had been declared sufficient in form, substance and in grounds.
The Gadon camp is expected to bring witnesses before the congressmen in the next hearing expected to be held in November when the existence of probable cause is determined.
However the problem is that Sereno doesn’t want to personally cross-examine her adverse witnesses. In a motion filed before the Justice committee last week, the Chief Justice expressed that she’d rather have her legal team perform cross-examination, adding that House rules permit her to do so.
Alvarez, who is a lawyer like Sereno, shook his head at the notion.
“Hindi naman ‘yung abogado ‘yung akusado rito. Hindi puwede (Her lawyers aren’t the accused here. That’s a no-no),” he said.
According to the Speaker, Sereno’s refusal to appear before the committee to confront the witnesses is tantamount to waiving her rights to do so.
“Kapag hindi siya humarap, eh di iwi-waive ‘yan. Kung hindi siya haharap, ‘di lahat ng sasabihin against her ay hindi niya madedepensahan (If she doesn’t appear then it is waived. If she doesn’t appear then she wouldn’t be able to defend herself from the accusations).”
And if this does happen in the panel hearing, Alvarez said Sereno wouldn’t be correct to say that the impeachment process wasn’t fair to her.
“Ngayon kapag hindi ka nag-appear dun, tapos sasabihin niyang hindi fair ‘yun, hindi tama iyan kasi hindi ka nag-appear. Baka naman ‘yun ang gusto niyang mangyari. Hindi siya mag-a-appear para mayroon siyang masabi na hindi fair ‘yung naging proceedings,” said Alvarez.
(Now if you don’t appear there and then say it wasn’t fair, that wouldn’t be right because you didn’t appear. Maybe that’s what she wants to happen. She won’t appear so that she can say that the proceedings weren’t fair.)
Sereno, an appointee of former president Benigno S. Aquino III, is is being accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption and other high crimes for her alleged litany of lapses including untruthful declaration of her wealth.
Gadon, a known supporter of President Duterte, has listed at least 27 allegations in connection with these grounds.
The Articles of Impeachment against Sereno would be crafted and sent to the Senate Impeachment Court once the congressmen determine that there is probable cause.
Duterte, Aquino’s successor, chairs PDP-Laban.
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