The House justice committee should have dismissed the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, an expert on constitutional law said Sunday.
Sereno's camp said it would be unconventional for an Associate Justice like De Castro to appear as a witness as in the impeachment hearing.
Last Wednesday, the Umali panel voted to prohibit Lagman and other non-members from participating in its deliberations on the impeachment complaint against Sereno.
It imposed a similar prohibition on lawyers of the Chief Justice.
Umali warned Sereno that the panel can use the coercive power of the committee under the Constitution, saying she cannot invoke the separation of powers between the Legislative and Judiciary because she has the constitutional duty to face the impeachment complaint.
"Kung ang makakasagot pala ng basic questions lang naman dito, ang sagot mo e ibang tao ang makakasagot, hindi ko alam kung sino ang complainant dito (I'm not sure who the complainant is here since other people have the answers to the basic questions)", she said.
He said justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre promised to attend the hearing tomorrow, adding he is not available to testify today on the allegation that Sereno "manipulated and thereafter delayed the resolution on the request of the Secretary of Justice to transfer the Maute cases outside of Mindanao". Sereno's lawyers left the hearing after seeking Umali's permission.
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Lagman sat through the proceedings until they ended.
Umali said the panel has invited in today's hearing Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro, SC Court Administrator Midas Marquez, SC Clerk of Court Atty.
The complainant responded that he did not talk to De Castro and that he got his information from a reporter and a friend.
"We have a problem with that", Umali's Mindoro Oriental colleague Doy Leachon said.
They said this was contrary to the sworn statement the complainant, in compliance with the House impeachment rules, signed in which he declared that his accusations against the Chief Justice were "based on his own personal knowledge or on authentic documents".
It was at this point that some members suggested that the panel invite De Castro and Gadon's reporter-informant, but the justice committee chose to extend the invitation to all SC justices.
If the Umali panel does not grant the request of Lagman, he could course his questions through other Liberal Party members sitting in the committee, including Jose Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City, Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands and Ramon Rocamora of Siquijor.
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