THE chairman of the House committee on justice yesterday expressed the panel’s intention to subpoena Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to compel her presence during the hearings in determining the probable cause of the verified impeachment complaint against her.
“To subpoena the Chief Justice is our option being considered as of the moment because we have the constitutional mandate to perform and she (Sereno) as a constitutional officer should honor and comply with that. Remember, that is (issuing a subpoena) our coercive power to compel her presence,” said Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the committee chairman, in an interview.
Asked if the committee can cite Sereno in contempt and detain her at the House of Representatives if she disregards the subpoena being considered by the panel, Umali said that could be a possibility.
However, Umali admitted that the idea to subpoena Sereno may spark a constitutional crisis because of the separation of powers of the Legislative and Judicial branches of government.
“The issue of constitutional crisis may arise of course here. But in the spirit of fairness, we want her to answer the allegations in the impeachment complaint,” said Umali.
Umali also aired the possibility that the deliberations of the impeachment complaint against Sereno may be extended when Congress resumes session in January 2018.
“I am afraid that we might not be able to vote on the committee report this December 13 or the day when we adjourn for the holidays,” said Umali.
On Wednesday, the House committee on justice voted 30 against four rejecting Sereno’s request to allow her lawyers to participate and defend her by cross-examining the witnesses to be presented by the complainant in determining the probable cause.
At the same time, the committee voted 30 against 3 approving a motion not to allow non-panel members to participate or speak during the deliberation of Sereno’s impeachment.
The committee also invited all Supreme Court justices and a broadsheet reporter to shed light on the impeachment complaint against Sereno.
In his impeachment complaint, Atty. Larry Gadon listed 27 alleged acts where he accused Sereno, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III, of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes for her alleged litany of lapses including untruthful declaration of her wealth.