MANILA — A House Committee cannot compel Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to attend the impeachment hearing against her, Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon said Monday.
Drilon, a lawyer, warned of a serious constitutional crisis if the House Committee on Justice proceeds with its plan to issue an arrest order to compel Sereno to show up.
“The House Committee on Justice cannot force Sereno to attend and testify in an impeachment hearing against her. It cannot be done without triggering a constitutional crisis,” Drilon said in a press statement.
“There is no basis and will provoke a needless constitutional crisis,” he added.
He, meanwhile, urged committee chair Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali to exercise “extreme caution” in using the coercive powers of Congress to issue a subpoena against Sereno.
The senator further explained that the power of the House to issue a subpoena, motu prioprio, cannot be used during the investigation of an impeachment complaint.
Moreover, he said that an impeachment hearing is different from investigations in aid of legislation where Congress is allowed to issue a subpoena and order the detention of a witness.
“Requiring her to testify against herself would place her under the strongest temptation to commit perjury, and subject her to an extortion of confessions by duress,” Drilon said.
Drilon said that it would violate Sereno’s constitutional rights and the principles of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.
The House of Representatives’ Justice Committee on Monday continued its deliberation on the determination of probable cause in the impeachment complaint Sereno even without the presence of majority of the invited resource persons.
Umali said Associate Justices Teresita De Castro and Noel Tijam will not be able to attend the impeachment proceeding as they still seek clearance from the court en banc for their appearance.
Other court officials also have to wait for SC en banc’s approval.
The committee has issued a show-cause order against Sereno’s two lawyers and a Commission on Human Rights (CHR) commissioner for airing out comments that cast aspersion on the impeachment proceedings against the chief magistrate.
Umali said Sereno’s lawyers, Joshua Santiago and Aldwin Salumbides, branded the proceedings as a “dog and pony show” after the panel refused to allow the counsels of the Chief Justice to ask questions in her absence. (PNA)