By: Charissa L. Atienza
The House Committee on Justice voted 30-4 yesterday to disallow the lawyers of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno to cross-examine the witnesses in the impeachment case against her.
The House panel, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, approved the motion of Ako-Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin denying Sereno’s motion asserting her right to counsel and cross-examine the witnesses against her in the impeachment case through her lawyers.
The motion was seconded by House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo T. Fariñas but was rejected by Siquijor Rep. Rav Rocamora, a former prosecutor.
“We wish to inform the lawyers and members of this committee that we are not sitting here as an impeachment court. I move that their motion to cross-examine the witnesses be denied,” Garbin said.
Fariñas said he was “surprised” that Sereno and her lawyers filed a motion asking for the right to cross-examine the complainant.
“This impeachment deliberation is not akin to criminal proceedings. In the case of Estrada vs Ombudsman case, the Supreme Court held that Sen. Estrada does not even have the right to demand copies of the complaint and Chief Justice Sereno concurred in that,” he said.
He even noted that even sitting Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Juan Ponce-Enrile were detained and were not even given the right to cross-examine, because it may come during the trial.
“If we allow the lawyers to cross examine the witnesses, we will not be able to bring this to the impeachment court,” he said.
To further prove his point, the House Majority Leader also noted that even the late Chief Justice Renato C. Corona had not been allowed a preliminary hearing in his own impeachment “because he did not have the right.”
“Nag-iimbestiga pa lang kami dito, gusto ninyo nang mag-cross-examine. Gagawin ninyo agad trial dito, we were not in trial yet. For all she knows, we may dismiss this,” Fariñas said. “Allowing cross examination at this point might end in absurdity,” he added.