The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on Wednesday, April 21, assured that it remains independent and “not a mindless puppet to do the bidding of others.”
In a statement, the OSG said that it is an independent and autonomous office and the “principal law officer and legal defender of the government.”
Its statement was issued in reaction to the published column of retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban who called quo warranto petitions filed by the OSG against Supreme Court (SC) justices as the “Sword of Damocles” that can be unsheathed and wielded at the beck and call of so-called “villains.”
“His statements imply that the Solicitor General is a mere pawn that ‘villains’ can order to terrify and embarrass members of the Supreme Court. This is far from the truth,” the OSG stressed.
In 2018, the SC removed former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida who argued that her appointment at the tribunal should have been void from the start due the lack of filing of statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALNs).
The OSG said:
“The Solicitor General has the bounden duty to protect the government, of which the Supreme Court is a part of, from usurpers of public office – the real villains who exercise vital functions of the government despite their ineligibility to do so.
“The Solicitor General is fully aware of the grave consequences of petitions for quo warranto. Thus, he exercises utmost prudence in initiating them.
“When the OSG files a quo warranto petition, it is not to harass anyone, but to uphold the people’s right to have only qualified individuals hold public office. The terror and embarrassment caused to respondents, if any, are but mere consequences of the intrinsic invalidity of their right to hold office, aggravated by the publicity given to these cases.”
The OSG also refuted Panganiban’s statement that SC justices can only be removed from office through impeachment.
“With due respect, impeachment is not the only way to remove a Justice of the Supreme Court. The 1987 Constitution does not exclude the writ of quo warranto as a remedy to oust impeachable officers, such as the members of the Supreme Court,” it said.
“The remedies of quo warranto and impeachment are two separate remedies to remove impeachable public officials and can proceed independently and simultaneously as these remedies are distinct as to: (1) jurisdiction; (2) grounds; (3) applicable rules pertaining to initiation, filing, and dismissal; and (4) limitations,” the OSG explained.
It pointed out that quo warranto “ousts a public officer for ineligibility, or failing to meet the qualifications for such public office at the time of appointment, while impeachment can result in the removal of a validly-appointed or elected impeachable officer for the commission of any of the impeachable offenses while in office.”