By Rey Panaligan
BAGUIO CITY – The Supreme Court (SC) decided here Tuesday (April 3) to hold oral argument on April 10 on the quo warranto petition that sought the disqualification and the ouster of Chief Justice-on leave Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno as head of the judiciary.
During its full court session, the SC instructed Sereno, who sought the holding of the oral argument, “to attend personally and answer questions from the court en banc” (full court).
Sereno may face an impeachment trial should the House of Representatives forward to the Senate, the impeachment court, the six articles of impeachment found against her by the House Committee on Justice.
But legal sources said that if the SC finds Sereno disqualified and ousts her as chief justice, the impeachment proceedings may be moot and academic.
The SC oral argument will start at 2 p.m. on April 10 and will be held at the SC’s session hall in this city where the justices are having their traditional summer sessions until the end of this month.
A copy of the SC’s resolution given to journalists by its public information office (PIO) stated::
“In the matter of G.R. No. 237428 (Republic of the Philippines, represented by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida v. Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno), the Court:
“DENIED the Motion for Leave to File Motion for Intervention and Opposition-in-Intervention dated March 19, 2018 filed by proposed intervenors Bayan Muna Party List, et al. and the Joint Omnibus Motion for Leave to Intervene and to Admit Attached Opposition-in-Intervention dated March 19, 2018 filed by proposed intervenors Zorayda Amelia C. Alonzo, et al.;
“NOTED the Motion for Leave to File and Admit Attached Opposition-in-Intervention dated March 23, 2018 filed by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines;
“GRANTED respondent Chief Justice’s Ad Cautelam Motion to Set for Oral Argument; and
“DIRECTED that the Petition for Quo Warranto be HEARD ON ORAL ARGUMENT on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 2:00 in the afternoon at the Supreme Court Session Hall in Baguio City, with an instruction to respondent Chief Justice for her to attend personally and answer questions from the Court En Banc.”
SC sources who requested anonymity said that the holding of oral argument meant the High Tribunal had given due course to Calida’s petition and allowed Sereno to have “her day in court.”
They also said that with the oral argument, the SC has ruled that it has jurisdiction to decide the quo warranto case.
Earlier in Manila, the SC had required Sereno to file her comment on the petition. It said: “The Court, without giving due course to the Petition, required respondent Chief Justice Sereno to submit her COMMENT on the Petition (for Quo Warranto) within a period of ten (10) days from receipt of notice.”
“Without giving due course” means that the SC, at the time the petition was filed and when it decided to require comment, was still studying if it has jurisdiction over the quo warranto case.
Calida, thereafter, filed his reply as required by the SC. Also, several groups filed their petitions to intervene in the quo warranto case and their petitions are still pending action.
The same sources said that after the oral argument, the SC is expected to require Sereno and Calida to file their respective memorandum, normally in 10 to 15 days.
The SC will be on its month-long decision period this May. The sources said the decision on the quo warranto case may come out in June.
Other sources said that the justice-in-charge of the case has drafted a ruling based on the petition, the comment, and the reply filed with the SC. But they did not elaborate on the content of the draft ruling which may have “some revisions” depending on the outcome of the oral argument.
Earlier, Sereno, in her comment, had asked the SC to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the High Court and for lack of merit.
Through her lawyers, Sereno pointed out 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.
She said that the SC, itself, has been consistent in applying the provision of the Constitution under Section 2, Article XI.
Several groups had asked the SC to dismiss the quo warranto petition saying an incumbent chief justice can be removed from office only through impeachment, a process specifically provided in the Constitution.