IMPEACHMENT CASE: Sereno, not her lawyers, allowed to cross-examine witnesses —Umali - gohong01

The House Committee on Justice will allow Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to cross-examine the witnesses who will be presented during the proceedings of her impeachment case, but only if she will do it herself.

In a phone patch interview with reporters on Thursday, Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, the head of the committee, said the rules of the House of Representatives only allow resource persons or the respondent to speak during the hearings. He said the lawyers could only suggest or give advice.

"We will not allow the lawyers to speak directly to the cross examination, because that is not allowed by the rules of the House. Only the resource persons, in this case the respondent, in my own interpretation of our own rules, may be allowed to do that," he said.

"They (respondents) may be assisted by counsel but the assistance will only be in terms of giving them suggestions and advice, not for them to handle the examination or cross-examination themselves," Umali also said.

Sereno's camp earlier in the day filed a letter with the House panel asserting her right to cross-examine the witnesses.

Umali said his panel would have to reconcile the letter with the House rules.

"Meron kaming rules na examination and cross-examination is allowed. But we have to reconcile that with the rules of the House of Representatives where we only allow resource persons and not their lawyers. So ire-reconcile namin 'yan," he said.

"I will consult it with the body. I do not want to preempt them. We have to reconcile that with our own rules of the House of Representatives where we only allow resource persons to talk, and in this particular case, respondents to talk," Umali added.

Umali argued that Sereno is a seasoned lawyer.

"Probably we may allow her, herself, to conduct the cross-examination in the like manner that we will allow, para fair sa lahat, Atty. [Larry] Gadon to conduct his cross-examination," he said.

Umali insisted that they are not depriving Sereno of her right to cross-examine witnesses.

"If she wants, then she can confront them personally or even we may, subject to the decision of the committee, we may allow her personally to cross-examine if she appears," he said.

Gadon filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno, accusing her of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

The House justice panel found Gadon's complaint sufficient in form and substance, but dismissed the one filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption founding chairman Dante Jimenez and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. president Eligio Mallari for insufficiency in form. —KBK, GMA News



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