House Justice Committee chairman Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali has said the panel can order the arrest of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno if she ignores the subpoena in connection with the impeachment complaint filed against her.
The committee is determining the presence of probable cause in the verified impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno. The panel has invited all SC justices on a per need basis in the conduct of its hearings.
Repeatedly ignoring invites or a subsequent subpoena from a House panel can cause the subject person to be cited in contempt.
Umali, in a DZBB interview, said the panel can order the arrest of Sereno if she ignores the subpoena.
“Siyempre ‘pag subpoena coercive power ‘yan at ‘pag hindi po sinunod ay maoobliga tayong mag-issue ng warrant,” Umali said.
Umali said Sereno cannot invoke the separation of powers between the Legislature and Judiciary to skip the House panel proceedings.
“Mayroon kaming poder para gamitin ‘yung coercive power ng committee under the Constitution. So this is a constitutional power to pursue a constitutional mandate. (The) separation of powers as co-equal branch may not be invoked in this particular instance,” he stressed.
During the previous House Justice Committee hearing Wednesday, Umali carried a motion to invite justices of the High Tribunal “as they are needed” in the proceedings.
A House panel usually sends at least three invites (including one stronger-worded summon) to an individual before it issues a subpoena, which is a writ ordering a person to attend.
Sereno has said that she won’t attend the hearings and has repeatedly asked the Umali panel to let her lawyers face Gadon and his potential witnesses. This was handily rejected by the committee in a vote.
“Kapag mayroon talagang mga bagay na dapat siyang testiguhan marahil ay mag-i-issue ang komite ng subpoena,” Umali said, referring to Sereno. (Ellson A. Quismorio)