Non-members of House justice panel barred from participating in Sereno impeachment hearing

Alfred Osborne
November 22, 2017

Despite assurances by administration lawmakers, like Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu's 3rd District, that the chief justice will be "treated fairly" during the committee proceedings, the prevailing opinion is that Sereno will commit a grave mistake if she chooses to appear at the House where lawmakers can gang up on her, rather than the Senate.

House Committee on Justice starts impeachment hearing vs Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. If all 293 House members are given the chance to participate, he said the committee will not finish deliberations on the complaint.

The House panel also chose to prohibit non-members of the House Committee on Justice to participate in the impeachment proceedings based on a motion made by Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia.

The chief justice's lawyer left shortly after, since they would not be able to participate in the hearing anyway.

During the hearing, Umali said Gadon and Sereno would be given time to present their documentary evidence and testimonies.

"First they said the CJ has the right to examine so long as she conducts the cross-examination herself".

Umali assured the committee is not depriving Sereno of her right to counsel, but "their (Sereno's lawyers) participation is a different matter".

House Majority Leader Rudy FariƱas, for his part, said the committee should not allow non-members to participate.

"If we allow the lawyers to cross-examine the witnesses, we will not be able to bring this to the impeachment court", he said.

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In the Philippines, an impeachment complaint is initiated at the House of Representatives.

He added, "All congressional committees are established or created by the Plenary. We are deciding here on the fortune and fate of an impeachable officer", Lagman said.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman had pushed for non-members of the house committee like himself to be allowed to participate in the committee deliberations.

She had also asked that her counsels be given the opportunity to object to supposedly improper questions during direct examinations. Lourdes Sereno to cross-examine the witnesses against her through her lawyers.

For over an hour, the committee discussed procedural matters.

Only the respondent would be allowed to speak, referring to Sereno.

The panel, voting 30-3, then rejected Lagman's bid. While lawmakers who don't belong to the committee are still allowed to attend the hearings, they are not allowed to ask questions or vote.

The impeachment hearing on Wednesday was attended by 31 panel members out of 50 committee members and 33 ex-officio members.

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