MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday admonished Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to be prepared to face the House Justice committee when it tackles the impeachment complaint against her next month.
The next hearings will determine if there is probable cause in the complaint, which would require the face-off between Sereno and the complainant, lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, and the witnesses against her.
Alvarez said the House would ensure that it has an “airtight” case against Sereno.
“Talagang pagtitibayin namin, kailangan talaga airtight iyong aming kaso. Hindi kami mapapahiya rito [We will make sure to document this well and the case is airtight. We won’t be embarrassed here],” he said in a radio interview.
Gadon accused Sereno of committing several impeachable acts such as misdeclaring her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth and non-payment of taxes, which he alleged to constitute betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, and corruption.
Alvarez said the committee would require Sereno to be present at the hearings and will not allow her lawyers to represent her. Sereno’s legal team for the impeachment case has written the Justice committee twice to ask that they be permitted to speak in behalf of the chief magistrate.
“…Bibigyan naman natin ng pagkakataon si Sereno na harapin iyong mga nag-aakusa sa kanya, at pwede niyang matanong. Ngayon, kapag hindi ka nag-attend, waived na ang kanyang rights . . . kaya huwag siyang magrereklamo [We will give Sereno a chance to face her accusers and ask questions of them. Now, if she fails to attend, she would have waived her rights and has no cause to complain],” he said.
Josalee Deinla, one of Sereno’s lawyers, said the Impeachment Rules of the 17th Congress do not prohibit the Chief Justice’s lawyers from speaking or conducting cross examination.
“Because to do so would violate the Constitutional right to counsel and to be heard through counsel,” she said.
She also said the complaint should be dismissed for being “baseless.”