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House justice committee invites Sereno to impeachment hearing

MANILA, Philippines – The House justice committee on Thursday, November 16, officially invited Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to a November 22 hearing which will tackle an impeachment complaint filed against her.

The invitation was made by acting committee secretary Rene Dolorino, on behalf of committee chairman Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali.

"As the respondent in the aforementioned impeachment complaint, you are hereby invited to personally attend the said hearing," reads the letter.

Lawyer Larry Gadon wants Sereno impeached because she supposedly curtailed the authority of the Supreme Court (SC) en banc by making decisions without their knowledge. Gadon has also repeatedly criticized Sereno for purchasing a luxury vehicle which she uses in her capacity as Chief Justice.

Gadon's impeachment complaint was earlier deemed sufficient in form, substance, and grounds. The House justice committee will next tackle if there is probable cause to pursue the complaint. (READ: Sereno: No sufficient evidence in impeachment complaint before House)

Thus far, the powerful committee – a mix of high-ranking House officials and regular members – have voted overwhelmingly in favor of Gadon's complaint.

Sereno has repeatedly asked the committee to allow her lawyers to conduct cross-examinations of Gadon's witnesses before the committee. But several lawmakers, including Umali, who is a lawyer, think only Sereno herself and not her lawyers may conduct cross-examinations.

The Chief Justice's camp has insisted that it's Sereno's right to be represented before the committee hearings, which they say is akin to criminal proceedings. They have yet to comment on the invitation by the committee. (READ: CJ Sereno's band of lawyers in her impeachment case)

Should the justice committee approve the impeachment complaint, it will be endorsed to the House plenary. If at least one-third of the House votes in favor of the committee report approving the impeachment complaint, Sereno will be deemed impeached. It will then be endorsed to the Senate, which will sit as an impeachment court. (READ: CJ Sereno asks lawmakers to choose democracy over partisan interest)

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on November 6 called on Sereno to resign and spare the SC "from any further damage." But the Chief Justice's camp said "resignation has never been an option." – Rappler.com