Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 7) — Lawyer Larry Gadon wants President Rodrigo Duterte to serve as a special prosecutor in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
“Magaling na prosecutor si Presidente [The President is a good prosecutor],” he said in a forum on Saturday.
Gadon said there’s no law barring Duterte from participating in a political exercise like impeachment.
However, members of the House of Representatives raised issues with the proposal.
“Strictly speaking, members of House constitute the prosecution panel,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. “And to get the Executive branch, baka ma-violate ang separation ng executive and legislative branch (We might violate the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch).”
“Prosecutors should come from members of the House,” said House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro. “I’m afraid we cannot appoint anyone coming from the Executive if he’s the President.”
Section 15 of the House’s Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Proceedings states that the House shall serve as the sole prosecutor in an impeachment trial.
Meanwhile, Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy dismissed the move, saying it would put unnecessary burden on the President.
“Napakaraming responsibilidad ng ating Pangulo,” she said. “I’m sure tiwala siya that the legislative can do its job para hindi saklawan ang trabaho namin. ‘Wag nating ihalo at idagdag sa responsibilidad niya.”
[Translation: Our President has so many responsibilities. I’m sure he believes that the legislative branch can do its job, such that he doesn’t have to do our job. Let’s not add to his responsibilities.]
In a statement to CNN Philippines, Sereno’s camp said the plan is unconstitutional as it violates the role of the House of Representatives to be the sole prosecutors in impeachment cases.
“It makes a farce of the impeachment process. The Constitution does not allow the President to participate in the impeachment proceedings where he is not a party, and especially since the respondent is the head of a co-equal branch of government,” said Josalee Deinla, Sereno’s official spokesperson.
Deinla added the suggestion is “legally infirm,” and betrays the fundamentals of law.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre in a text messages said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea as the President runs a tight schedule.
Impeach Sereno, Carpio
Gadon’s proposal came after the Duterte said on Wednesday that he wanted to file an impeachment complaint against Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
The President has backtracked on his statement last August, when he said he would not interfere with the impeachment process against Sereno.
“We respect the decision of whoever filed the case against the Chief Justice and, of course, we’ll stand by that,” said Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Maria Banaag. “The President respects separate powers of each of our government agencies. If the House of Representatives would endorse, then that is up to them.”
Duterte has accused Sereno and Morales of being corrupt and for allowing themselves to be used by those who want him out of office.
He added that Sereno allegedly failed to declare her true wealth in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth when she did not properly reflect her earnings as the government’s private lawyer in the case involving Philippine International Air Terminals Company – the builder of NAIA Terminal 3.
“Ang nagbayad ng attorney’s fees niya, ang gobyerno. Tignan mo kung gaano kalaki. Ang kliyente niya, pinadugo niya. Pilipino,” Duterte said.
[Translation:The government paid for her attorney’s fees. Look at how high they were. She bled her clients, Filipinos.]
Duterte also attacked Sereno for her supposedly lavish lifestyle when she purchased a high-end Land Cruiser using government money and booked herself in expensive hotels during foreign trips.
A House panel found on Thursday that Gadon’s complaint contained sufficient grounds for impeaching Sereno.
House Committee on Justice chair Reynaldo Umali said detailed discussions of the complaint’s sufficiency in evidence will be discussed in the next step – the determination of probable cause. Gadon will be asked to support his allegations through evidence and witness accounts.
Meanwhile, Sereno’s legal team has pointed out that truth and justice are not just a numbers game.
CNN Philippines Digital Producers VJ Bacungan and Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.
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