2 Sereno lawyers, CHR exec face possible House contempt

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2017 01:49 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2017 08:17 PM

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MANILA - (UPDATED) Two lawyers of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and an official of the Commission on Human Rights faced possible contempt citation on Monday for criticizing the impeachment proceedings against the top magistrate. 

During the resumption of the hearings, Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia cited a news report where Sereno lawyers Joshua Santiago and Aldwin Salumbides accused the House justice committee of turning the impeachment into a "dog and pony show." 

Salumbides, she said, was also quoted as saying that congressmen are allegedly prolonging the hearings. Santiago meanwhile said their optimism banked on senators being more independent and "not beholden to certain party interests." 

Their remarks have "cast aspersion on the integrity of the committee and the proceedings," Garcia said. 

She motioned for the issuance of a show cause order for Salumbides and Santiago to explain why they should not be cited for contempt. 

SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta then urged the committee to include in the order CHR Commissioner Roberto Cadiz, who said in a separate report that the "law of the jungle seems to be prevailing" in the impeachment. 

House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali approved the motion, giving Salumbides, Santiago and Marcoleta 72 hours to explain their statements after receipt of the show cause order or else be cited in contempt. 

SHOW CAUSE ORDER 'UNCALLED FOR'

Salumbides, meanwhile, believes the show cause order is "uncalled for." He denied that the statements were aspersions against the justice committee members but observations made by "various people who are closely watching what is going on in the justice committee." 

He said people might consider the show cause order as a form of persecution "because this time it's not just the Chief Justice herself who seems to be under fire, who is being dragged into this controversy and all this noise but even us who are part of the defense team." 

He warned that the move will bring a chilling effect and "silence the voice of fair comment." 

During the interview, Salumbides noted that lawyer Larry Gadon seemed to be relying on "double hearsay" for his allegation that Sereno allegedly falsified court documents in 2013. He said that Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas, whom Gadon said was his source, denied giving any information to Gadon and that Associate Justice Teresita de Castro also denied giving info to Canlas. 

"That is double hearsay--twice removed from the source of the information. In this case, we all know that the supposed direct source - Justice Tessie de Castro herself - has denied giving information to the reporter. So what does that make of all the statements and allegations of the complaint of Gadon," he said.

"Evidently, there is no personal knowledge. It is so impersonal. It is even dubious as we can call it right now because really denials at every step of the supposed communication process is what we are seeing. The credibility of complainant Gadon should be at an all-time low. He is supposed to be establishing the strength of his case, proving not just his allegations but even his evidence."

"Instead, his flimsy position is really being exposed. I just don't know up to what point of unraveling and shaking of his credibility is necessary for the impeachment committee to finally make a determination and ruling that this complaint should have been dismissed at the very first instance." 

Umali's panel is determining if there was probable cause to pursue the impeachment complaint against Sereno, who is accused of having an extravagant lifestyle, misdeclaring her wealth and bypassing her colleagues in the issuance of administrative orders. 

She has denied the allegations and refused to participate in the hearings. 

Congressmen voted last week that Sereno's lawyers will not be allowed to cross examine witnesses on her behalf.