MANILA- "That's their call."
This was the comment of House justice committee Chair Rep. Rey Umali on the recent statements of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's camp urging the House committee to fast-track the impeachment proceedings so that they can present their defense during the impeachment trial at the Senate.
"Nasa kanila (Sereno's legal team) yun kung ayaw nila lumaban dito at ilaban yung kaso ni CJ (Chief Justice) dito. That's their call," Umali said on Thursday.
The Chief Justice's camp on Wednesday said Sereno "looks forward" to her impeachment trial at the Senate after members of the House justice committee barred her counsel from cross-examining witnesses to be presented at the panel's proceedings to determine probable cause on the complaint against her.
Umali twitted Sereno's lawyers, saying he thinks that the top magistrate's legal team is only having difficulties defending her.
"Ako, I was once a litigator in criminal law, normally ganyan kaming mga abogado. Pagka-mahirapan kaming idepensa eh di na namin sinasagot eh," he said.
"Palagay ko (nahihirapan), kaya yun ang nagiging direksyon nila but it is also their duty to defend their client to the fullest," he added.
Sereno is facing impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives after she was accused by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon of misdeclaring her wealth, having an extravagant lifestyle, and bypassing her colleagues in the issuance of administrative orders,
Umali, however, admitted that Gadon's complaint against Sereno has problems which could be addressed by evidence that may be gathered by the panel.
"Irrelevant dito ang complainant. Mas importante are the witnesses whom we will call because they are the ones who will have the personal knowledge," he said.
Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of the spokespersons of Sereno, meanwhile, alleged that the impeachment hearing was used as a venue for a “fishing expedition” against the top magistrate.
“It has always been our position that the people’s money should never fund a fishing expedition and unfortunately, this was what exactly happened in Wednesday’s hearing,” Deinla said on Thursday.
Gadon, however, insisted that his allegations against the Chief Justice can be supported by public documents.
"Personal knowledge is not necessary when a fact is proven by a public document … A public document is even given more weight than personal knowledge... My complaint [is] based on documents certified by the SC (Supreme Court) no less," he said.