MEMBERS of the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives have voiced their support for Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno amidst an impeachment complaint filed against her.
In a press conference at the Media Center on Thursday, ACT-Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio said that his party would support Sereno and her appeal for her right to counsel and right to cross-examination.
Sereno submitted two letters and a motion to the Committee on Justice, which has yet to respond.
“Of course, ayaw nating gamitin lamang ang Kongreso, whether at the committee level or sa plenary basically para gamitin for a demolition job kasi nga in the first place, malinaw naman siguro na ang impeachment complaint ay maaring gawing taktika para i-pressure, takutin at i-iintimidate na mapag-resign si Chief Justice,” Tinio said.
(Of course, we do not want them to use Congress, whether at the committee level or the plenary, for a demolition job because in the first place, it can be seen that the impeachment complaint is a tactic to pressure, strike fear and intimidate the Chief Justice to resign.)
Aside from this, lawmakers should also be weary of an impeachment complaint waiting to be filed against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, according to Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate.
“Malinaw na dahilan [ng nakabinbin na impeachment complaint laban kay Morales]ay dahil na rin sa statements na binitiwan ng Ombudsman [laban kay Presidente Duterte, at]ito ay kabahagi sa pag-pressure ng independent bodies na ito na tumatayo nang sarili, taliwas sa naging tayo ng Duterte administration,” Zarate said.
(It is clear that the reason why there will be an impeachment complaint against Morales are the statements released by the Ombudsman against President Duterte, and that this is an attempt to pressure independent bodies that are against the Duterte administration.)
A member of the “Magnificent 7” bloc of the House passed a position paper to the Committee on Justice on Sereno’s right to counsel and right to cross-examine.
In the position paper, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that while an impeachment proceeding was political in nature, it was imbued with a judicial character akin to a criminal prosecution.
“Verily, a respondent in an impeachment proceeding, like the respondent or accused in a criminal action, has the constitutional right to retain a counsel of his/her choice. This right to counsel will be rendered nugatory if the respondent’s counsel is denied the opportunity to cross-examine on behalf of the respondent the complainant and his witnesses. The Constitution did not envision a counsel as a useless appendage,” Lagman said.
Lagman added that the right to counsel would be a “pathetic farce” if the right to cross-examine was limited only to the respondent.
Lagman also said that the constitutional right to counsel and the right to cross-examine the witnesses by counsel were effectively denied if the conduct of the cross-examination would be limited to the party or the respondent.
“It should also be emphasized that the respondent’s right to counsel and right to cross-examine by counsel is different from the appearance of counsel in inquiries in aid of legislation where the participation of counsel is limited “to advising on the legal rights of said witness.”
Lawyer Larry Gadon filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes.
The Committee on Justice will deliberate on whether or not there is probable cause for the complaint when the session resumes next week. Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said in a text message that the hearing was set on November 22 at 9:30 a.m. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA