By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) is scheduled to tackle today the motion filed by Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno who sought a reversal of the May 11 decision that ousted her as Chief Justice and head of the judiciary.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio said Sereno’s motion filed last week is included in today’s full court agenda.
Sources said the SC may take either of two actions – resolve the motion or require Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, who filed the quo warranto case in behalf of the government, to submit his comment on the motion.
In an 8-6 vote of the 14 SC justices on May 11, Sereno was declared disqualified as chief justice for her failure to comply with the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) requirement of filing 10-year statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALNs) when she applied for the chief justice post.
The decision stated that Sereno’s failure to submit her SALNs meant “her integrity was not established at the time of her application” and thus she was ineligible to hold her position.
The dispositive portion of the SC decision:
“Wherefore, the petition for quo warranto is granted. Respondent Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno is found disqualified from and his hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the Chief Justice. Accordingly, respondent Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno is ousted and excluded therefrom.
“The position of the Chief Justice is declared vacant and the Judicial and Bar Council is directed to commence the application and nomination process.
“This decision is immediately executory without need of further action from the Court.
“Respondent Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno is ordered to show cause within ten days from receipt hereof why she should not be sanctioned for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct for transgressing the sub judice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court.
The decision was written by Justice Noel G. Tijam. The seven other magistrates who concurred in were Justices Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Alexander G. Gesmundo.
Those who voted to deny the quo warranto petition were Acting Chief Justice Carpio and Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., Mariano C. del Castillo, Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.
On the issue of whether or not quo warranto is the proper remedy to challenge Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice, the voting was 9-5. Justices Velasco, De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza, Martires, Tijam, Reyes Jr., and Gesmundo voted that quo warranto is the proper remedy.
Justices Carpio, Del Castillo, PerlasBernabe, Leonen, and Caguio voted against. To them, impeachment is the proper remedy.
On the issue of whether or not Sereno violated the Constitution for her failure to file her SALNs, Carpio, De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza, Martirez, Tijam, Reyes Jr., and Gesmundo voted that there was a violation.
While Sereno had filed her motion to reconsider the decision, she had sought for more time to file her pleading on a show-cause order to explain her alleged violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct for transgressing the sub judice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to SC members.
In her 205-page motion, Sereno said “basic, fundamental and longstanding constitutional and legal rules and principles, and settled judicial precedents were ignored, set aside and reversed by the majority decision to achieve one end – the disqualification and ouster of the Chief Justice.”
She even warned that “the proverbial path to perdition which the majority of this Court has taken, that is paved mainly with the intention of removing the Chief Justice by any means, can lead only to the destruction of judicial independence and the separation of powers.”
She stressed that the majority of the SC justices violated her constitutional right to due process when they ignored evidence that she had filed her SALNs when she was a professor at the University of the Philippines.
She reiterated that Section 2, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution mandates that “impeachable officials like the Chief Justice can be removed only by impeachment and not by any other means.”
At the same time, Sereno’s motion pleaded anew for the inhibition of Justices Castro, Peralta, Jardeleza, Tijam, Bersamin, and Martires.
“This is essentially a plea to the Honorable Court to do what is right and just…. And the right and just thing to do, as dictated by the respondent’s fundamental right to due process is to disqualify the six Honorable Justices who had lost the impartiality to hear and decide this case,” the motion stated.
In his petition that was granted by the SC, Calida said that “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.”