CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will not attend today’s impeachment hearing at the House of Representatives.
The Embattled magistrate has executed a Special Power of Attorney authorizing her team of lawyers to “exercise and protect her rights and interests in all stages of the impeachment proceedings.”
House Justice Committee Chairman Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali rejected Sereno’s special power of attorney insisting it is immaterial and her presence is required at the hearing.
“In light of the foregoing and with all due respect, the Chief Justice has chosen to attend the 22 November 2017 hearing through her legal counsel,” Sereno’s lawyers led by lawyer Alex Poblador said in a two-page letter addressed to Umali.
Poblador insisted on Sereno’s right to counsel and right to cross-examine, as guaranteed by the Constitution as part of due process of law.
“The Chief Justice need not repeat her position as stated in the Motion of her counsel that in the impeachment proceeding before the Hon. Committee, she has the right to appear through counsel and a denial thereof is a violation of due process,” Poblador said.
Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said that if the purpose of the invitation was to hear her side, the top magistrate had already aired her “side” and under oath in the verified answer and verified rejoinder she had filed earlier.
“Ang dapat magpaliwanag ngayon ay ang complainant dahil dun sa mga pinayl sa komite, ay paulit-ulit nyang sinabi na later, later pa niya ibi-verify ang kanyang mga paratang,” Deinla told reporters during the filing of the letter to the justice panel.
Deinla said the Sereno camp was hoping the hearings will not be used as a “fishing expedition” for evidence which the complainant, lawyer Larry Gadon, does not have.
The chairman of the House committee on justice yesterday rejected the special power of attorney (SPA) executed by Sereno for her to be represented by her lawyers in today’s hearing on her impeachment complaint.
“They cannot defend the Chief Justice. It has no bearing at all because what is material here is her presence for her to controvert the evidence to be presented by the complainant and the witnesses,” Umali, the panel chairman, said in an interview as his panel begins today the process of determining probable cause of the impeachment complaint against Sereno.
Umali said Sereno’s lawyers will only be allowed to sit in the hearing, but will not be given the chance to talk.
“They (Sereno’s lawyers) can come, but they cannot speak because the rules do not permit such arrangement,” Umali said, referring to the scheduled resumption of the impeachment hearing against Sereno this Wednesday morning.
On Monday, Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez had ordered to bar the lawyers of Sereno from attending the scheduled impeachment hearing should the lady magistrate ignore the invitation for her to attend.
Sereno named the following lawyers as members of her legal defense Alexander Poblador, Dino Vivencio A.A. Tamayo, Anzen P. Dy, Justin Christopher C. Mendoza, Carla S. Pingul, Sandra Mae T. Magalang, Jayson C. Aguilar, Oswald P. Imbat, Enrico Edmundo D. Castelo II, Charles Richard C. Avila, Jr. and/or Patricia P. Geraldez.
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.
With Ryan Ponce Pacpaco