MANILA - Lawmakers and the camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno are poised to lock horns Wednesday over her right to be represented by lawyers at a hearing by the House justice panel.
Sereno has refused to attend the proceedings, 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.
"Iyung mag-aabogado sa sarili, hindi po tama iyun," Sereno's spokesperson Atty. Carlo Cruz told DZMM ahead of the 9:30 a.m. impeachment hearing.
"Kailangan po kung may sakdal, may paratang, kailangan kumuha ka ng maayos, very able, very competent na lawyer to defend you."
(It is not right to serve as a lawyer for yourself. If there is an accusation, you should get very able, competent lawyers to defend yourself.)
Sereno, he added, cannot risk the "independence and dignity" of her office by attending the hearings when she is uncertain of the manner by which congressmen would question her.
"Maraming usapan sa social media na baka po maging karnabal, maging circus. Siguro maigi na po, tama na po ang pananaw rito ni Chief Justice Sereno na huwag na nating hayaang magkaroon ng ganoong oportunidad," Cruz said.
(There are talks on social media that the hearing may become a circus. Perhaps Chief Justice Sereno is right in preventing opportunities for this to happen.)
Sereno is accused of misdeclaring her wealth, having an extravagant lifestyle and bypassing her colleagues in the issuance of administrative orders.
The House justice committee earlier voted that the complaint against her was sufficient in form and substance despite the use of newspaper clippings as evidence.
On Wednesday, the panel would determine whether or not the case has probable cause, and if her lawyers should be allowed to cross examine witnesses.
"Kung sila (mga abogado ni Sereno) ay papayagan, then they can participate. Kung hindi naman, they will have to just observe the proceedings," Justice panel chairperson Reynaldo Umali said in a separate DZMM interview.
Watch a livestreaming of the hearing here.