SC directs Sereno to appear on April 10 oral argument on quo warranto petition

Published April 4, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Rey Panaligan

Baguio City – The Supreme Court (SC) decided on April 3 to hold an oral argument on April 10 on the quo warranto petition filed by the Solicitor General seeking the disqualification and ouster of Chief Justice-on leave Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno as head of the judiciary.

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno answers a reporter's questions in Manila, Philippines. A spokesman for the chief justice on the Philippine Supreme Court said she expects to be impeached by the House of Representatives in March, 2018 and will go on indefinite leave to prepare for the trial. Maria Lourdes Sereno will start her leave Thursday, March 1, 2018 but is confident of being cleared of any wrongdoing during the impeachment trial. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)
Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno
(AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

In its full court session, the SC instructed Sereno, who joined the plea of Solicitor General Jose C. Calida for an oral argument, “to attend personally and answer questions from the court en banc”.

Sereno may face an impeachment trial should the House of Representatives forward to the Senate, the impeachment court, the six articles of impeachment 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.

Calida lauded the decision of the SC to personally argue her case.

“There is no better party to address the petition head-on than Sereno herself,” said Calida in a post on his official Twitter account.

“Any other litigant will only unnecessarily add more issues to be resolved by the Supreme Court,” he added.

A copy of the SC’s resolution given to journalists by its public information office (PIO) states:

“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.”

Due course

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.”

In holding an oral argument, the same sources said the SC has ruled that it has jurisdiction to decide the quo warranto case.

The SC had earlier required Sereno to file her comment on the petition “without giving due course to the petition.”

“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.

The same sources said 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 writing 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.

Sereno had earlier asked the SC to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the High Court and for lack of merit.

She insisted that impeachable officials, including SC justices, may only be removed from office through impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.

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.

Obstinate, lacks integrity

Among the intervenors are Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, ACT Teachers Party-list Reps.Antonio Tinio and Francisca Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party-list Reps. Emerenciana de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao, and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago, former Sen. Rene Saguisag, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr., Aksyon Demokratiko affiliate Kaye Ann Legaspi, National Union of People’s Lawyers Secretary General Ephraim Cortez, Francisco Alcuaz, Bonifacio Ilagan, and retired Col.George Rabusa.

Activist priest Robert Reyes and several individuals also filed their own intervention. The group includes farmer leader Noland Peñas, former Pag-IBIG fund chief executive officer Mel Alonzo, student Rey Anne Librado, urban poor advocate Alice Gentolia Murphy and peace and human rights advocate Mardi Suplido.

The board of governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) had also filed its intervention.

Calida maintained Sereno failed to comply with the requirements of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) of filing 10-year statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) when she applied for the chief justice post.

“Sereno’s repeated failure to file her SALNs, and her dishonesty before the JBC are demonstrative of her obstinate refusal to comply with the law and accordingly, her utter lack of integrity,” Calida said in his reply that was required by the SC after Sereno filed her comment on the petition for quo warranto.

He pointed out that the quo warranto case against Sereno is different and independent from the ongoing impeachment proceedings in Congress.

“The Constitution does not include ineligibility to public position as a ground for impeachment. No one can be convicted for ineligibility. The sole purpose of impeachment proceedings is to hold a public officer accountable for wrongdoings committed in office. On the other hand, the quo warrantoproceedings instituted by the Solicitor General seeks to oust Respondent because she is ineligible to be the Chief Justice,” he said.

“In other words, the Solicitor General is not asking the Court to remove Respondent for impeachable offenses: it is not the concern of the petition. Instead, the Solicitor General has good reason to believe that Respondent has no authority to occupy the esteemed office of the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines: she had not shown that she possessed proven integrity, an indispensable qualification for appointment to the Judiciary pursuant to Section 7(3), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution,” he added. (With a report from Jeffrey G. Damicog)