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Sereno may go to SC for relief, says poll lawyer

By Julius N. Leonen

Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, through her spokesmen, just two days ago, bared to media that the chief justice was mulling her legal option to question the impeachment complaints against her, claiming that the House justice panel, by refusing to have her lawyers cross-examine the witnesses, denies Sereno’s due process.
Yesterday her spokesman said that there are no plans as yet to elevate the case of the chief justice before the Supreme Court (SC), which she heads. Reacting to the bared plan to take her case before the SC, an election law expert explained that the scenario where the Chief Justice will ask her fellow justices at the Supreme Court (SC) for relief in her pending impeachment case in Congress is not that far from truth.

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, a known poll lawyer, in a statement, said “it will be of great help” not only for Sereno and her lawyers if she takes the impeachment fiasco in her own turf.
It will also be “a useful guidance for the bench, bar and public” if she would elevate to the SC the issue of whether or nor her lawyers could cross examine the witnesses against her during the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.
The House committee on justice said it will only allow Sereno, by herself, to cross-examine the witnesses to be summoned by the House, to determine whether or not probable cause exists in the impeachment case filed against her.
Her lawyers will not be allowed to cross examine the witnesses who may testify against her.
The committee explained that the rules of the House provide “that only resource persons may be allowed to cross examine the witnesses and not their lawyers.”
Sereno insisted that under the Constitution, her lawyers, who will represent her in the impeachment case, have all the right to cross examine, on her behalf, the witnesses against her. Macalintal said that Section 2, Article III of the Constitution allows just that.
He pointed out the provision states that any person under investigation shall has the right to “have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice” while Section 14(2) of same Article gives such person the “right to be heard by himself and counsel.
Moreover, Macalintal said a review of existing House Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings shows that there is no definite rule on the issue of cross examining witnesses.
“Second paragraph, Section 6 of the House Rules in Impeachment Proceedings in 1988 and up to the present provides that once that the committee finds that sufficient ground for impeachment exist, the committee “shall conduct a hearing,” Macalintal said.
“To that end, the committee, through its chairman, may limit the period of examination and cross examination,” the rule states, Macalintal explained.
For this, Macalintal said that what the rules limit is merely the “period” but not the “person” who may conduct the examination and or cross examination.
“Sereno and Umali could debate ad infinitum on this issue and for sure it will have no final resolution,” he said.
“For the guidance of Sereno, the bar, the lawyers and the public, there is that compelling reason that this very sensitive and important issue be brought to the Supreme Court for a definitive ruling and for their guidance in future similar cases,” he insisted.
The House rules also say that upon getting the requisite number to impeach an impeachable officer, can directly decide and submit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for trial—even without House hearings aws long as the the panel decides on sufficiency in form and substance.
The House justice panel has given her the works, by way of due process and her rights.
Gadon: Sereno’s bid
for support useless
It is already useless for embattled Sereno to even try and gather support from members of the judiciary against her pending her impeachment case at the House of Representatives.
This was the statement of the impeachment complainant himself, lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon, who strongly believes that her efforts in rallying judges and court employees behind her will only be fruitless.
Sereno, through her spokesmen, has declared that she has no intention whatsoever to step down from her position as Chief Justice where she has allegedly committed corruption and manipulation, as stated by Gadon in his impeachment case.
In fact, the Chief Justice is now considering the move to ask her own colleagues, the 14 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court (SC), to grant her relief that may or may not effectively halt the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.
Lawyer Carlo Cruz, one of Sereno’s spokesmen, said this is among their options as they are still waiting for the House committee on justice’s final decision on Sereno’s plea for her to be able to cross examine the witnesses being used against her.
Sereno, who is facing allegations of corruption, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, is now trying to appeal for support from the judiciary, despite her alleged lack of credibility, according to Gadon.
“Sereno has been making the rounds, talking to the judges and court personnel. Unfortunately, she has lost her credibility with them,” Gadon said, adding that the Chief Justice is also out to try to get public sympathy.
“In the last five years as Chief Justice, she has been promising judges and court employees that she will address their concerns. But to date, after five years, those promises have remained promises,” Gadon alleged.
For allegedly making empty promises, Sereno should no longer expect that more members of the judiciary will openly express support for her in her impeachment case in Congress, Gadon insisted.
Instead of looking after her fellow judiciary members, Sereno opted to purchase for herself a P5.5 million bullet-proof “top of the line Land Cruiser, using people’s money, traveling across the world on first or business class with her phalanx of lawyers, again using government funds,” Gadon claimed.
Gadon also accused Sereno of living a “lavish” and “extravagant” lifestyle, and at the same time, he alleged that the Chief Justice had failed to address the concerns of members of judges and employees.
“Even from the SC justices, she has no support. On the contrary, many of them have made themselves available as resource persons for the committee hearings,” Gadon claimed.
Gadon believes that because of this lack of backing from the judiciary, Sereno’s camp has resorted to “use of dubious organizations which sprouted from nowhere and hired public relations professionals.”

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