By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang appealed to the public to respect the decision of the Supreme Court to oust its Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno by voting for the quo warranto petition filed against her.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the Supreme Court knows what it is doing as it is the final arbiter of the law.
“The High Court has spoken. Let us respect its decision granting the quo warranto petition as the proper remedy and the quo warranto petition ruling against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno,” he said Friday afternoon.
“The Supreme Court, a co-equal branch of government, is duty-bound to uphold the Constitution. The court ruling is likewise an assertion of the supremacy of the fundamental law of the land,” he added.
In a statement, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo also made the same appeal, adding that democracy works in the country.
“The Supreme Court has spoken. We all must bow to the majesty of the law. The Constitution has given the duty of interpreting the law to the highest court of the land and we must abide by it regardless of our disagreement with its ruling. That is how democracy works,” Panelo said.
“Each branch of the government performs its duty as defined by the Constitution. And the judicial branch has performed its task as directed by the Constitution,” he added.
Panelo also reiterated that both Quo Warranto and Impeachment are legal modes of removing public officers. He said Impeachment removes qualified impeachable officers while the other ousts unqualified public officials.
“A person who has no legal right to hold office will remain in office unchallenged if he or she cannot be subjected to a Quo Warranto just because he or she happens to be an impeachable officer,” he explained.
Sereno’s qualification as Chief Justice was questioned after reports that she failed to file her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for a 17-year period during her stint as a professor at the University of the Philippines.
“Apart from the constitutional requirement that public officers should file their SALN, a person seeking to be a member of the Supreme Court before he or she qualifies to be a nominee to such office must submit all SALNs during the tenure in public office as required by the rules of the Judicial and Bar Council,” Panelo said.
“Such failure affects the integrity of the applicant especially one who is a lawyer who is presumed to know the requirement,” he added.
Panelo also noted how the Constitution signifies the non-exclusiveness of the process of removing an impeachable official who was placed in office illegally.
“It does not say, ‘may ONLY be removed from office on impeachment’, and thus impeachable officers can clearly be removed through modes other than the impeachment process,” he said.
“Both processes must be reconciled in relation to the constitutional requirement of submission of SALN,” he added.
Meanwhile, Panelo also pointed out that the Supreme Court is only doing its job of interpreting the Constitution.
“The Supreme Court in issuing such ruling is only performing its constitutional duty of interpreting the provisions of the Constitution and rendering a decision on cases properly brought before it,” he said.
“The assumption of jurisdiction is a triumph of the rule of law. Dura lex sed lex or ‘the law may be harsh, but it is the law’. Decisions cannot be based on emotions nor on biases,” he added.
On Wednesday, Malacañang said it is letting the Judiciary handle its affairs, following the decision of Sereno to end her indefinite leave which started on February 24.
“The decision of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to end her indefinite leave and the reported ruling of the quo warranto petition against the Chief Justice are internal matters to the High Court,” Roque earlier said.
Sereno’s ouster came a month after President Duterte said that he was going to help in the removal of Sereno after growing tired of hearing the ousted Chief Justice accuse him on having a role in her removal from office.