Sereno may go to SC for relief
It will be of great help, not only for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and her lawyers, but also a useful guidance for the bench, bar and public, if she would bring before the Supreme Court the issue of whether or not her lawyers could cross-examine the witnesses against her during impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.
Sereno insists that under the Constitution her lawyers who will represent her have all the right to cross-examine, on her behalf, the witnesses against her. Section 2, Article III of the Constitution provides that any person under investigation shall have the right to “have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice” while Section 14(2) of the same Article gives such person the right to be heard by himself and counsel.
The House judicial committee chair, however, ruled that Sereno by herself—and not by any of her lawyers—could cross-examine said witnesses because the rules of the House provide “that only resource
persons may be allowed to cross-examine the witnesses and not their lawyers.”
A review of existing House Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings shows that there is no definite rule on said issue. The second paragraph of Section 6 of the House Rules in Impeachment Proceedings in 1988 and up to the present provides that once the committee finds that sufficient ground for impeachment exists, the committee “shall conduct a hearing. To that end, the committee, through its chairman, may limit the period of examination and cross-examination.”
In a word, what the Rules limits is the “period” but not the “person” who may conduct the examination and/or cross- examination.
Sereno and Rep. Reynaldo Umali could debate ad infinitum on this issue and for sure it will have no final resolution. Thus, for the guidance of Sereno, the bar, the lawyers and the public, there is that compelling reason that this very sensitive and important issue be brought to the Supreme Court for a definitive ruling and for their guidance in future similar cases.
ROMULO B. MACALINTAL
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