MANILA - House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should face the House justice committee instead of sending lawyers to represent her in committee deliberations.
Speaking to reporters, Alvarez rejected Sereno's petition to allow her lawyers to cross-examine witnesses in the impeachment complaint filed against her.
"Si Sereno yung mag-appear dito. Bakit abogado? Impeachment trial niya ito. Merong impeachment complaint na finile sa kaniya, dapat siya sumagot hindi abogado. Bakit, hindi ba siya abogado? Chief Justice pa nga siya eh," he said.
The Chief Justice is currently facing impeachment at the House after the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against her was declared sufficient in form, substance and grounds, paving the way for determination of probable cause.
The complaint stemmed from several accusations, including Sereno's alleged non-disclosure of the fees she got from the Piatco case in her 2010 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.
In a letter filed by her lawyers, the Sereno camp said the rules of the House of Representatives allow petitioners and respondents to conduct an examination and cross-examination subject to the time limit set by the committee chair.
However, Justice Committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali has said Sereno's right to confront her accusers cannot be extended to her lawyers.
Instead, he said the panel may allow Sereno to conduct the cross examination of the complainant, Larry Gadon, and vice-versa. "You have 2 lawyers pitted against each other. One, a complainant; the other, a respondent. So you know baka this may be allowed," he said.
He added that the justice committee may also choose to let 25 lawmakers who endorsed the Gadon complaint question Sereno.
Alvarez twitted the camp of Sereno, which he accused of spreading black propaganda against him.
"...Pati ako inaatake na meron akong ax to grind against the Chief Justice, 'ni hindi ko na nga naalala, pinaalala pa sa akin," he said.
The Speaker, meanwhile, blasted as "unfair" allegations that the impeachment process is being "weaponized" against the political opposition.
"That is the most unfair statement kasi unang-una, it is a constitutional process...Yung sinasabing ginagamit yan laban sa opposition, di naman siguro tama yun dahil hindi naman magpo-prosper yan pag walang valid grounds..." Alvarez said.
In the same interview, Alvarez revealed there are already lawmakers prepared to endorse the planned impeachment complaints against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
"Meron, di ko mabilang eh. Ayaw ko bilangin, wala pa naman complaint bakit ko bibilangin?" he said.
Alvarez said he does not want to get ahead of himself since no impeachment complaint has been filed against the Ombudsman.
President Rodrigo Duterte has challenged both Sereno and Morales to resign with him amid an investigation into his wealth that allegedly amounted to billions of pesos.
Alvarez said they will not simply heed the President's words.
"I don't consider it a pressure. In the first place, I do not work for the President, I work for the Republic of the Philippines," he said.