House Justice Committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali said on Sunday morning that the panel has the power to issue an arrest order for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in connection with the impeachment complaint against her.
In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Umali also said that the order doesn’t even need the approval of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Sereno has refused to appear before the committee to answer allegations against her in the impeachment complaint now being discussed in the House panel for the determination of probable cause.
PHOTO: Rep Umali, CJ Sereno
But this, Umali said, is the last resort.
In a separate interview on dzBB, Attorney Carlo Cruz, one of the spokespersons for Chief Justice Sereno, said that the justice committee should consider the principle of separation of powers of the three branches of government.
“Dapat tingnan na ang bawat sangay ng pamahalaan ay may kasarinlan sa ilalim ng ating sistema,” he said.
However, Umali, in the earlier interview, pointed out that Sereno is a respondent of an impeachment case.
But Cruz, said that Sereno is still the Chief Justice even if she is a respondent.
“Hindi naman nawawala ang kanyang pagiging punong mahistrado dahil nanging respondent siya sa impeachment case.”
On Monday, the House justice committee will continue with the hearing of the determination of probable cause of the impeachment case.
Last week, Sereno refused to appear before the committee to defend herself from the accusations, with her camp insisting the right to cross-examine the witnesses.
Umali said, “Ang first option is dahil hindi siya humarap e ‘di kung ano man yung ebidensiyang naihain na hindi na-controvert o hindi nakontra ay siyang mananatili at magiging basehan ng komite.”
“Now on the other hand, ‘pag meron talagang mga bagay na dapat niyang testiguhan ay marahil ay mag-isue [ang] komite ng ‘ika nga ay subpoena at siyempre ‘pag subpoena, coercive powers ‘yan at hindi po sinunod ay maoobliga tayong magissue ng warrant.”
He said that such “coercive power” can be used by the panel while separation of powers on a co-equal branch could not be invoked in the impeachment proceeding.
“Sa aking pananaw ay ang poder ng Committee on Justice at ng impeachment prosecutor ay…meron kaming poder para gamitin ika nga yung coercive power ng komite under the Constitution so this is a Constitutional power to pursue a Constitutional mandate of which yung respondent ay respondent,” Umali said.
“Therefore yung ganong power ang ibig sabihin separation of powers on co-equal branch may not be invoked in this particular instance,” he added.
Earlier, Sereno said that she had formally tasked her legal team to act on her behalf in all stages of her impeachment proceedings.
The top magistrate had also insisted on her right to counsel and cross-examine the witnesses that will be presented in the proceedings through her counsel.
But panel denied the Chief Justice’s legal counsel the chance to cross-examine the witnesses.
Sereno is being accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust filed by Lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon.
The impeachment complaint against her has been determined sufficient in form, substance and also with sufficient grounds. —LBG, GMA News
Projected issuance of arrest warrant vs. Sereno has ‘no legal anchorage’ —Lagman
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman pointed out that Sereno’s appearances before the House Committee on Justice “will not serve any legal purpose.”
“[T]he projected issuance of a warrant of arrest against the Chief Justice has no legal anchorage. It is an empty and useless threat bordering on coercion and arbitrariness,” Lagman said in a statement.
He also reiterated that the top magistrate as a respondent in the pending impeachment proceedings has “inherent and constitutional rights” to “appear through her counsel and have her lawyers cross-examine on her behalf the complainant and adverse witnesses”. The panel, however, has denied her these rights.
This came in after House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali said that the panel has the power to issue an arrest order against Sereno if the Chief Justice continues to refuse to attend the hearing.
Umali said that such an order does not even need the approval of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, noting that Sereno could not invoke the separation of powers on a co-equal branch in the impeachment proceeding.
Meanwhile, Lagman said that the burden is on complainant Attorney Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon to prove the allegations in his complaint and not for the respondent to “disprove the same considering that Gadon has not even proved anything and his charges are utterly unfounded and based on hearsay.”
“Moreover, the accusations have been sufficiently traversed in the Chief Justice’s answer and other pleadings,” he added.
Sereno is being accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust, in the complaint filed by Gadon.
The impeachment complaint against her has been determined sufficient in form and substance and also found to be with sufficient grounds.
The House justice panel is continuing its hearing on Monday as of posting time to determine the probable cause in the impeachment case against Sereno. —Marlly Rome Bondoc/KG, GMA News November 27, 2017