Lawmakers express frustration over 'uncooperative' SC clerk of court Featured

Lawmakers express frustration over 'uncooperative' SC clerk of court

IMPEACHMENT HEARING. House justice committee chair Reynaldo Umali presides the hearing on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on December 6, 2017. DARREN LANGIT 

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MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House justice committee, including its chairman, barely hid their frustration over what they described as an uncooperative witness during the hearing on an impeachment case filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“You are just showing that you are not being very cooperative with this committee,” said Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali, panel chairman, on Wednesday, December 6, as the committee resumed deliberations to determine probable cause in the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno.


Umali was addressing Supreme Court Clerk of Court Felipa Anama, who was summoned to stand as witness to one of the issues being raised against Sereno."Kaya nga po hininhingi namin, tulungan 'nyo kami bumilis tayo (That's why we're asking you to help us speed up the proceeding)….Please help us....Please have a more open mind," he added.

Questioned by several lawmakers, Anama refused to confirm that it was Sereno who was the member-in-charge and therefore, the ponente, on Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s request to transfer Maute Group cases from Iligan City in Mindanao to Taguig City in Metro Manila.

Anama cited the rules of the court that prohibit her from divulging the ponente or member-in-charge of a case, or the justice who takes the lead in a particular case.

It’s the member-in-charge who eventually pens the decision of the High Court.

Citing the justice committee’s mandate as the impeachment committee, the lawmakers argued that Anama should already divulge the member-in-charge for the case. Besides, legislators, including Umali, pointed out, that the case had already been resolved.

Anama herself reiterated that the member-in-charge may only be revealed once the case is resolved. “Has the matter been resolved?” Umali asked.

Anama answered in the affirmative.

“Then why can you not reveal who the case went to?” said the committee chairman.

Anama still refused to reveal the member-in-charge in the case, pointing out that she only attended the hearing to submit documents that the committee had asked from her. Umali countered by saying Anama was also expected to clarify issues and answer questions.

At one point, Umali apparently got irritated at Anama and told her, "'Wag po tayong maging pilosopo dito (Don't be a smart aleck)," to which the SC employee quickly said, "I respect this committee."

Umali, his voice slighty raised, then told Anama that Sereno herself admitted that she was the member-in-charge, through her verified reply. (READ: How Sereno answered her impeachment complaint)

“If the Chief admitted that, there’s nothing I can do,” said Anama.

“We are trying to arrive at the facts and these are the facts that are admitted by the respondent herself. So please help us because you are in charge of the raffle,” said Umali.

The committee went on an hour-long break shortly after the heated discussion. –

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