CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno does not need to appear before the House of Representatives to cross-examine the witnesses in the impeachment case against her, one of her spokespersons said Tuesday.
Lawyer Josa Deinla disagreed with the statement of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that Sereno should personally appear before the House committee on justice so she could be given the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses against her.
“Under the Constitution, the Chief Justice has the right to be defended by her lawyers as an accused,” Deinla said.
“And only she can decide if she will exercise this right or not. Because she is the respondent or accused, she cannot be treated as an ordinary resource person to be invited by Congress.”
Among the witnesses being eyed to speak against Sereno are two of her colleagues in the Supreme Court.
But Deinla said Sereno had the right to cross-examine the witnesses against her through her lawyers as part of the “due process of law” enshrined in the Constitution.
She called on the public to be vigilant against any attempt to deprive Sereno of her constitutional right to due process in the impeachment proceedings.
“We would like to call on the public to be vigilant in this impeachment process because we all have a stake here,” Deinla said.
She said Sereno’s legal team will insist on their motion to recognize her “constitutionally guaranteed rights” when the House committee on justice resumes the hearing on the impeachment case on Nov. 20.
She warned that the impeachment proceedings in the House would be one-sided if Sereno’s lawyers were not be allowed to participate.
“What will happen is that the determination of probable cause will be one-sided and the public and members of the committee will not see the entire picture, Deinla said.
In a motion filed with the House justice panel on Oct. 23, Sereno’s lawyers led by Alex Poblador sought confirmation from the committee that people testifying as witnesses or as ‘‘resource persons against the Chief Justice may be ‘‘cross-examined by her counsel on her behalf.
“The right to be heard and be defended by counsel in all stages of a criminal proceeding is a very basic right of an individual, which not even this Honorable Committee, indeed Congress, can take away from a respondent in an impeachment proceeding,” the lawyers said in their motion.
Sereno’s camp also asked that they be allowed to object to improper questions during direct examination of the complainant’s witnesses and be furnished with all the documentary and testimonial evidence in support of the charges against their client.