Sereno to skip House impeachment hearing

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno won't be attending the House committee on justice hearing on an impeachment complaint filed against her. Instead, she authorized her team of lawyers to represent her before the powerful committee. 

Sereno, through her lawyers, filed before the committee on Tuesday, November 21, a Special Power of Attorney that authorizes her legal team to represent her before the committee on Wednesday, November 22. 

The committee will be discussing if there is probable cause to pursue the complaint against her.

In the SPA, Sereno authorized lawyers Alexander Poblador, Dino Vivencio Tamayo, Anzen Dy, Justin Christopher Mendoza, Carla Pingul, Sandra Mae Magalang, Jayson Aguilar, Oswald Imbat, Enrico Edmundo Castelo III, Charles Richard Avila, and Patricia Geraldez to "protect [her] interests in all stages of the impeachment proceedings." 

This means her team of lawyers will be able to exercise all of Sereno's rights, including, the chief justice said, the right to cross-examine and confront witnesses. 

The cross-examination will likely be a sticky issue when the committee meets on November 22. Sereno has always insisted that her lawyers should be able to conduct the cross-examination on witnesses presented against her. 

But committee chairman Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez have insisted that only Sereno herself can conduct the cross-examination. Alvarez on November 20 said that Sereno's lawyers will only be allowed in the hearing if Sereno herself is there. 

The committee will likely have to decide if the lawyers will be allowed to conduct the cross-examination.  

Laywer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno's spokespersons, said the chief justice is simple exercising her right to counsel. Deinla could not say where Sereno would be on November 22. The committe had earlier formally invited Sereno to the November 22 hearing.

Deinla also said on Tuesday that Sereno's no-show does not mean that she accepts the allegations against her. The lawyer pointed out that Sereno has already answered and rejected the allegations against her in her verified answer filed before the justice committee. –