Sereno camp reiterates request to cross-examine impeach witnesses

MANILA — The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday reiterated its plea to allow her lawyers to confront and cross-examine witnesses on her behalf during the impeachment proceedings.

In another letter addressed to the House Committee on Justice, Sereno, through her lawyers, asserted her right to cross-examination through counsel.

The second letter was filed in response to House justice committee Chair Reynaldo Umali’s statement that only the Chief Justice as respondent, and not her lawyers, can speak and conduct cross-examination during impeachment hearings.

Sereno noted that this violates her constitutional right to counsel and to be heard through counsel.

“This would effectively deny the Chief Justice her fundamental right to appear and be heard through counsel, and to confront and cross-examine witnesses against her through an independent counsel of her own choice,” the letter read.

“This would also deny the Chief Justice her Constitutional right to due process before a fair and impartial tribunal,” it added.

Sereno said the impeachment proceedings are similar to criminal proceedings, wherein the right to be heard and defended through counsel is accorded to an individual under the Constitution.

Sereno cited House rules on impeachment providing that “[t]he Rules of Criminal Procedure under the Rule of Court shall, as far as practicable, apply.”

“In sum, it is our considered position that the recognition of the right to cross-examine on the part of the Chief Justice should include a recognition that this right may be directly exercised by counsel of her choice, as is plainly and commonly understood in the legal tradition of civilized nations,” the letter read.

Last week, Sereno filed before the House justice committee a letter asserting her right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against her.

The House Justice Committee will be conducting a hearing on Thursday to determine whether the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno has sufficient grounds.