By Hannah Torregoza
The Senate minority bloc is still hopeful that the Senate would be able to tackle the resolution that expresses the upper chamber’s stand on the Supreme Court’s decision to grant the quo warranto petition against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the minority are unsatisfied with the outcome of the interpellation when Senate Resolution No. 738 was taken up by the Senate on its last session day before the sine die adjournment.
Members of the Senate debated on the resolution early Thursday morning, right after they passed the proposed Bangsamoro basic law on third and final reading.
During the interpellation, Sen. Panfilo Lacson questioned the draft resolution which was signed by 14 senators who questioned Sereno’s ouster as SC chief justice through a quo warranto.
Lacson stressed that Congress has no jurisdiction on the matter, saying the Senate is not in any position to insist that it has the exclusive power to initiate and try all impeachment cases against an impeachable official when the articles of impeachment against Sereno has not even been transmitted to them.
“I don’t want to participate in something that would encroach on the authority of the Supreme Court,” Lacson said.
“In this case, we are creating a constitutional crisis because the Supreme Court acted within its own jurisdiction… and here we are, interfering and trying to influence the SC to reverse its decision,” he added.
He cited that Art. XI, Sec. 2 of the 1987 Constitution states that officials, including the President, the Vice-President, and members of the Supreme Court “may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”
“The operative word is ‘may’,” Lacson pointed out, stating that the 1987 Constitution changed the “shall” specified under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions to “may.”
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon argued, however, that the resolution merely seeks to express the sense of the Senate that it has the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.
“What the resolution proposes is just to express its sense of the Senate, and I think even an ordinary citizen can express his or her view on this matter,” Drilon said.
“All the resolution says is 14 senators have signed this resolution expressing the sense of the Senate the Supreme Court, in its own judgment can simply say we do not agree with the Senate, and therefore, we proceed. But it doesn’t mean we cannot express our own opinion and pass this resolution. The majority of the senators believe so,” Drilon said.
In the end, the Senate moved to suspend the deliberations on the resolution.
“In principle, it should be taken up again when we resume sessions in July. And hopefully, we can vote on the resolution. Its very important that we put on record in our history that lawmakers in the 17th Congress stood up in this constitutional issue,” Hontiveros said.
“That’s why we, in the minority, are expecting that we would be able to complete the process of deliberating this resolution when we resume in July,” she said.
The 14 senators who signed the resolution included Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Joel Villanueva, Loren Legarda, Sherwin Gatchalian, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Grace Poe, Drilon, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV, Hontiveros, Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV.
Those who did not sign the measure were Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Lacson, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Cynthia Villar and Majority leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri.
Read more: Senators fail to adopt resolution on Sereno