Sereno asks Supreme Court to dismiss quo warranto plea

Published March 19, 2018, 5:45 PM

by AJ Siytangco


By Rey Panaligan

Chief Justice-on leave Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday to dismiss the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida who wanted her disqualified and unseated as head of the judiciary.

In her comment, Sereno said the SC has no jurisdiction over the petition of Calida and that the solicitor general’s case has no merit.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's representative, Atty. Justin Christopher Mendoza is photographed holding out a copy of his client's comment Ad cautelam on the petition of Quo Warranto at the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Monday, March 19, 2018. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s representative, Atty. Justin Christopher Mendoza is photographed holding a copy of his client’s comment Ad cautelam on the quo warranto peition, at the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Monday, March 19, 2018. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)

Through her lawyers led by Alexander Poblador, Sereno said that under the Constitution she can be removed from office only through impeachment.

The lawyers cited the constitutional provision which states that impeachable officials, including SC justices, may be removed from office upon impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.

They pointed out that the SC, itself, has been consistent in applying the provision of the Constitution under Section 2, Article XI.

“The Chief Justice deserves her day in court before the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Tribunal,” comment stated.

“To rule otherwise, and to preempt the impeachment process by summarily ousting the Chief Justice via quo warranto, would be tantamount to overthrowing the Constitution itself,” it stressed.

Earlier, the SC – now headed by Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio on account of Sereno’s indefinite leave – had required comment “without giving due course” on Calida’s petition.

Of the 14 justices, only Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen voted to dismiss outright Calida’s petition.

In seeking the nullification of Sereno’s appointment and her ouster as head of the judiciary, Calida told the SC that Sereno’s appointment was invalid from the start because she did not meet the specific qualification of proven integrity with her failure to submit the 10-year statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALNs).

The petition stated:

“Under Section 7(3), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines, like any member of the judiciary, must be of proven integrity. Cognizant of this eligibility requirement, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in 2009 directed all applicants for the position of Chief Justice to submit ten statements of assets and liabilities filed prior to their application.

“Respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno did not do so, although she began her government service as a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law from 1986 to 2006. The Report to the JBC nevertheless mistakenly stated ‘complete requirements’ opposite Sereno’s name.

“This misled the JBC into including her in the shortlist; she was subsequently appointed to the highest position in the Judiciary ,notwithstanding her failure to prove her integrity.

“Respondent (Sereno) was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court although she did not show that she is a person of proven integrity, an indispensable qualification for membership in the judiciary under Section 7(3), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.

“Such ineligibility means that she is unlawfully holding the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, even as she was ostensibly recommended by the Judicial and Bar Council under Section 8(5), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.”

But in her 77-page comment, Sereno said that the SC “cannot take cognizance of or give due course to the petition without running afoul of the plain dictates of the fundamental law and established judicial precedents.”

She also said that Calida’s quo warranto petition should not have been entertained at all because it is “time-barred.”

She cited Section 11, Rule 66 of the Rules of Court which states that a quo warranto case must be filed within one year from the “cause of ouster.”

Thus, Sereno – who was appointed chief justice in 2012 — pointed out in her comment that “there is no authority to commence a quo warranto proceeding more than four years after the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations.”

Meanwhile, Sereno’s camp has asked the House of Representatives to elevate the impeachment case immediately to the Senate for trial.