Sereno to snub impeach hearings; lawyers to attend

MANILA — Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will attend the House Justice Committee’s hearing on her impeachment through her legal counsel on Wednesday amid Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’ call to show up and personally face her accusers.

Sereno, through her lawyers, filed before the House Justice Committee on Tuesday a letter in response to its invitation for the November 22 hearing on the determination of probable cause in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

Sereno also executed a Special Power of Attorney fully authorizing legal counsel, composed of 11 lawyers, to exercise and protect her rights and interests in all stages of the impeachment proceeding.

Sereno also authorized her legal counsel to confront and cross-examine witnesses on her behalf.

Among the lawyers in her legal counsel are Alexander Poblador, Dino Vivencio Tamayo, Anzen Dy, Justin Christopher Mendoza, Carla Pingul, Sandra Mae Magalang, Jayson Aguilar, Oswald Imbat, Enrico Edmundo Castelo, Charles Richard Avila, Jr., and/or Patricia Geraldez.

Sereno explained that she had already aired her side in detail through her verified answer and rejoinder filed before the Justice panel.

“The ‘side’ that needs explaining is that of the complainant (Gadon), who, in trying to excuse his failure to substantiate his charges, repeatedly professed that he would supposedly ‘verify’ his allegations and present evidence during the hearings before the Hon. Committee,” the letter read.

“The burden of proof in this proceeding is on the complainant, and not on the Chief Justice,” it added.

In an interview earlier in the day, Alvarez advised Sereno to take advantage of the opportunity the House is giving her to defend herself.

He noted that despite having the numbers to immediately bring the impeachment case to the Senate for trial, the House gave Sereno the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses and refute the allegations raised against her.

Binigyan namin ng due process dito sa House of Representatives, pinapayagan namin sila na magprisinta rin, magpaliwanag nung kanilang panig. At kung makita namin na talagang tama siya at talagang walang basehan yung impeachment complaint against her, hindi na namin paabutin yan sa Senado, doon sa impeachment court,” Alvarez added.

(The House of Representatives gave her due process, we are allowing her to present and explain her side. If she is able to prove that the complaint has no basis at all, then it won’t reach Senate — impeachment court — at all.)

He, however, reiterated that the committee would not allow Sereno’s lawyers to represent her in the hearing unless she is personally present herself.