MANILA - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Supreme Court justices skipped the resumption of impeachment proceedings against the country's top magistrate at the House justice committee on Monday.
The panel seeks to establish probable cause in the 27 points mentioned in the complaint against Sereno, including allegedly bypassing her colleagues in the issuance of administrative orders.
Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro, who supposedly penned a temporary restraining order that Sereno later "tampered with," have been invited to testify in the hearing, together with other SC magistrates and court personnel.
The group however needs permission to join the proceedings from the SC en banc, which would not meet until Tuesday, said justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali.
"Palagay ko naman, hindi rin nila (en banc) ika nga pipigilin ang pagtestigo ng ilang miyembro nila na sila naman ang subject matter doon sa mga administtrative order, resolution," he told DZMM ahead of the hearing.
(I think they will not bar their members from testifying because they themselves are the subject matter of the administrative orders and resolutions.)
Umali asked that when the high court convenes for an en banc session on Tuesday, magistrates would consider "not giving a piecemeal authority for each and every witness that we will invite" and instead grant the authority to all whom they will ask to attend.
He said the panel will have whoever is requesting the personnel or justice's presence in the hearing to submit a gist of what will be asked "so we will not burden the Supreme Court and its members and officers."
"Let me assure the Supreme Court that we will not whimsically and capriciously call any and all court personnel," he said during the hearing.
Sereno meanwhile has refused to attend the impeachment hearings, saying 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.
She skipped the proceedings anew to "preserve the dignity of her office," said her spokesperson Atty. Carlo Cruz.
"'Pag siya ay humarap doon, hindi natin masasabi kung anong mangyayari... Hindi lang naman siya ang puwedeng maapektuhan kundi ang buong Korte Suprema," Cruz said in a separate DZMM interview ahead of the 9 a.m. hearing.
Umali has said he is considering the issuance of a subpoena for Sereno to attend the proceedings.
Impeachment complainant Larry Gadon and state auditors will face Monday's hearings until other "critical" witnesses are ready to attend, he added.
Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia said the committee has received 8 letters from the invited court officials, 7 of which indicated willingness to appear but they await the decision of the en banc.
Judicial and Bar Council Executive Officer Annaliza Ty-Capacite, however, asked to be excused from the proceedings though she does not need the en banc decision.
The request was not accepted and she is still asked to appear before the House panel, said Garcia.
Watch a live streaming of the hearing here.