By Ellson Quismorio
Opposition lawmaker Rep. Edcel Lagman (first district, Albay) today slammed the “quo warranto” approach to unseating Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying it constitutes a “double-barrel assault” on the latter.
“The new tack against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is a quo warranto petition in tandem with an impeachment trial before the Senate,” the veteran lawyer and congressman said in a statement.
“This double-barrel assault against the chief magistrate is bound to boomerang because there are no credible and concrete impeachable offenses against Sereno, while the one-year prescriptive period for filing an action for quo warranto has long prescribed pursuant to Section 11 of Rule 66 of the Rules of Court,” Lagman said.
A quo warranto is defined as “a writ or legal action requiring a person to show by what warrant an office or franchise is held, claimed, or exercised.”
Sereno was appointed to the top post in the judiciary by then president Benigno S. Aquino III way back in 2012.
Lawyer Larry Gadon recently said he preferred removing Sereno via this route, which basically seeks to prove that the Chief Justice’s appointment was void from the start.
The basis of such a proceeding, which could be initiated by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) before the SC, is the supposed nonfulfillment of the requirements of the post as set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari said.
But Lagman noted that the SC justices who will handle such case could be biased against Sereno.
“A petition for quo warranto filed with the Supreme Court will be adjudicated by a hostile forum where seven associate justices mutinied to oust Sereno even as they later compelled her to file an indefinite leave of absence, which has no legal anchorage,” he said, referring to Sereno’s indefinite leave which began on March 1.
She took the leave just days before the expected declaration of probable cause by the House committee on justice in the impeachment complaint.
After this, the Justice panel will submit to the Senate the Articles of Impeachment which will be used by the congressmen-prosecutors as basis to unseat Sereno during the Senate impeachment trial.
Valid and constitutional
The potential quo warranto move is akin to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s recent request for the OSG to look into Sereno’s alleged failed psychological evaluation, which the JBC compels applicants of any judicial post to take.
Lagman insisted that Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice was in order.
“The appointment of Sereno is valid and constitutional as it complied with the basic requirements of the Constitution and her appointment was endorsed to former President Benigno Aquino III by the Judicial and Bar Council five years ago,” he said.
Lagman belongs to the “Magnificent Seven,” the self-styled opposition bloc in the House of Representatives.
Gadon was the one who filed a verified impeachment complaint against Sereno in August 2017 before the Lower Chamber.
The pro-administration lawyer is accusing Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption and other high crimes for her alleged litany of lapses including untruthful declaration of her wealth.
In connection with these grounds, Gadon listed 27 allegations which were all tackled by the Justice panel. It should be noted that some of Sereno’s own magistrate-colleagues at the SC testified against her during the 15 probable cause hearings held by the committee.