Lagman: Supreme Court, Office of Ombudsman ‘under siege’

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Albay first-district Rep. Edcel Lagman said the impeachment case against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the threat to investigate Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, “apparently at the behest of President Rodrigo Duterte,” would wreck the country’s democratic institutions.

“The constitutionally guaranteed independence of the Supreme Court and the Office of the Ombudsman is under siege without legitimate anchorage,” he said.

Lagman said the impeachment complaint against Sereno is a “compendium of hearsay news accounts and the purported grounds do not constitute impeachable offenses.”

“Compounding the gravity of the situation is the decision of Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Chairman of the Hose Committee on Justice, to deny the counsel of Sereno the right to cross-examine on behalf of the Chief Justice the adverse witnesses. Umali wants the Chief Justice to personally conduct the cross-examination despite her constitutional right to counsel of her choice,” he said.

On the other hand, he said, the unprecedented projected investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman by a commission to be created by Duterte imperils the independence of the Ombudsman.

“With the impending destruction of democratic institutions even as Duterte already has full control of the Congress, the military and police establishments, and the bureaucracy, an authoritarian rule can be a harsh eventuality,” Lagman said.