MANILA - The chairperson of the House justice committee said Thursday that he is considering the issuance of a subpoena for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to attend the impeachment proceedings against her.
Sereno has refused to attend the hearings, insisting her lawyers can question witnesses on her behalf. House leaders however said this was against the rules of procedure, which state that only resource persons are allowed to speak, and not their lawyers.
Congressmen voted Wednesday to bar Sereno's lawyers from speaking on her behalf.
"Tinitingnan po natin banda-banda riyan kung baka mapilitan tayong subpoena-hin po si Chief Justice. Ang subpoena po kakaiba ito dahil ginagamit natin ang coercive powers ng House e," Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali told DZMM.
(We will see if we would be forced later on to subpoena the Chief Justice. The subpoena is unique because it uses the coercive powers of the House.)
"What is happening here is we are performing a constitutional duty and when we perform a constitutional duty, we expect most particularly constitutional officers to obey it," he added.
Sereno's spokesperson, Atty. Josalee Deinla, said the plan would violate the rights of the Chief Justice.
"Paano mo isa-subpoena ang isang taong may karapatan namang maging present sa mismong proceeding at paano kung nagpasya na siya na hindi s'ya pupunta dahil sa palagay niya ay hindi rin naman siya mapakikinggan?" she said in a separate DZMM interview.
(How would you subpoena a person when it is her right to be present in the proceedings and she has decided that she will not go because she thinks that she will not be heard anyway?)
"Parang pagpipilit [iyan] na maging present siya personally. Sa aming palagay, isa na naman iyang magiging panibagong paglabag sa magiging karapatan ni Chief Justice."
(That will be tantamount to forcing her to be present personally. We think this will be another violation of the rights of the Chief Justice.)
Sereno is accused of misdeclaring her wealth, having an extravagant lifestyle and bypassing her colleagues in the issuance of administrative orders.
Her camp said the decision of the Committee to prohibit her lawyers from attending the hearing is "tantamount to barring CJ Sereno herself." Sereno's lawyers said they have no choice but to send real-time commentaries on the proceedings to present their rebuttal.
The legal team is still studying their next move, said Deinla.
The House justice panel is set to resume its hearing on Monday.