By Jeffrey Damicog
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Thursday said it will join calls to have the Supreme Court dismiss the quo warranto petition filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
IBP President Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said that IBP Board of Governors has decided to formally file an intervention with SC “to oppose and seek the dismissal of the petition for quo warranto initiated by the Office of the Solicitor General against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes A. Sereno.”
“The IBP has the fundamental duty, shared with the Supreme Court, to uphold the Constitution, advocate for the rule of law and safeguard the administration of justice,” he explained in a statement.
“The IBP Board of Governors thus decided to participate in the proceedings and offer legal insights, with careful effort not to fall into the trap of providing a simplistic answer to the rather complicated question that now confronts the judiciary, the resolution of which is of transcendental importance to our democracy,” he said.
Last March 5, Calida filed the petition which sought to void the 2012 appointment of Sereno as chief justice, charging that she failed to comply with the requirements for her application, particularly, the submission of her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
Fajardo said the IBP believes that under the Constitution “impeachment is the only mode of removal of an impeachable officer for an impeachable offense.”
“Since the Chief Justice may only be removed via impeachment on a question of integrity, the quo warranto proceedings against her may not prosper because what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly,” he said.
Regarding her non-submission of her SALNs, Fajardo said: “the Supreme Court may not inquire into the Chief Justice’s alleged lack of integrity without violating the fundamental principle of separation of powers.”
“Having been appointed to her current post, the Chief Justice is presumed to have been previously adjudged by the President as having met the requirement of integrity. Consistent with the separation of powers, such judgment cannot be reviewed, much less reversed, by the Supreme Court. The President remains the ultimate judge of a candidate’s worthiness,” he stated.
“Entertaining the quo warranto petition on account of the Chief Justice’s supposed lack of integrity is tantamount to subjecting her to the disciplinary authority of the Supreme Court. Under the Constitution, the members of the Supreme Court may not be ordered dismissed by any government authority other than by the Senate after an impeachment proceeding,” he pointed out.