Sereno lawyers: Fast-track impeachment, bring it to Senate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22) — The lawyers of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday called on the House Justice Committee to expedite the impeachment proceedings against her so that the issue will be brought to the Senate.

Atty. Alex Poblador, Sereno's lead counsel, wanted the House panel to immediately "transmit" the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which will act as the impeachment court.

"We are looking forward to have this case brought before the Senate and we are confident that we will be able to defend the Chief Justice there consistent with her constitutional rights," Poblador said in a media briefing after they left the proceedings.

The Justice Committee voted 30-4 to reject the motion of Sereno's lawyers to participate in the proceedings. Poblador and Sereno's legal team left the hearing after they were denied cross-examination of complainant Larry Gadon and his witnesses.

READ: House panel prohibits Chief Justice's lawyers from participating in impeachment proceeding

"We look forward to have this case brought before the Senate and we are confident that we will be able to defend the Chief Justice there consistent with her constitutional rights," Poblador said.

Lawmakers who were not part of the House panel were also barred from the proceedings.

READ: Non-members of House justice panel barred from participating in Sereno impeachment hearing

In an interview on CNN Philippines' News Night, Atty. Aldwin Salumbides, one of Sereno's counsels, said that they had "realistic expectations" of the House committee's decision.

"In fact we were preparing for the possibility that we would not be allowed to enter the session hall," he said.

Salumbides is hoping senators, if they become judges in the impeachment trial, will be more "independent" as the impeachment hearings have the marks of politics.

"Mas mabuti pa na i-diretso na sa [It's better to bring it straight to] Senate and we'll face it there. And hopefully we will be given fair shape, fair opportunity to really exercise the rights of our Chief Justice," she said.

 

Baseless accusations?

The House panel also scrutinized Gadon's complaint, saying that some of the allegations stated in his complaint do not have factual basis, and do not constitute impeachable offenses.

According to Gadon, Sereno allegedly culpably violated the Constitution when she falsified a resolution without the approval of the Supreme Court en banc.

Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun pointed out that Gadon had repeatedly referred to information he got from a Manila Times reporter saying that Associate Justice Teresita de Castro called Sereno's actions out.

"It appears as admitted by the complainant, he has no personal knowledge of facts alleged there. And documents supposedly based are not even available," he said.

House Justice Committee Chairman Rey Umali, however, shrugged off these conclusions, adding that that the Committee has already declared the complaint sufficient in form and substance.

"We ruled on this. What we do now is get supplementary evidence. Ang important now this is case-building that we are doing, the way a prosecutor would conduct matters on preliminary investigation para di tayo maderail sa issues on procedure," he said.

Lawmakers also called on the Sereno camp to submit receipts and other pertinent proof, including her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

Lawmakers want Sereno to prove this through receipts or vouchers that clearly indicate the purchase of a house and lot, a vehicle, investments, including medical and funeral expenses.

Other lawmakers were quick to point that Gadon appears to be fishing information.

The panel plans to use the next two weeks on marathon hearings to determine if there is probable cause to impeach Sereno.

And on December 13, the last day of session this year, Umali said they plan to vote on the complaint in the plenary.

CNN Philippines' Correspondents Joyce Ilas and Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.