The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file an answer to an explanation filed by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on its quo warranto petition seeking to oust her from her position.
Quo warranto is a writ or legal action requiring a person to show by what warrant an office or franchise is held, claimed or exercised.
During deliberations, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the OSG was given five days from notice to file its reply.
It will be the last session of the SC magistrates for the month of March before they go on Holy Week break and before the en banc holds its summer session.
“The court directed the Solicitor General to submit the Republic’s reply to the respondent Chief Justice’s comment within five days from its receipt of notice,” Te said.
The deadline cannot be extended.
Sereno filed her 77-page comment with the SC en banc wherein she pointed out that Solicitor General Jose Calida’s petition must be dismissed “for lack of jurisdiction and merit.”
In her pleading, the Chief Justice–who was forced to go on indefinite leave–said the SC has no jurisdiction to sack her from office via quo warranto because “the text of the 1987 Constitution, the Constitutional Commission’s deliberations and established jurisprudence consistently state that impeachable officials like her can be ousted ‘only by impeachment.’”
She added that it is only through impeachment proceedings by which a Chief Justice can be removed from office.
Sereno said the people must give her a chance to explain her side and it can only be done before the Senate sitting as an impeachment tribunal.
The petition for quo warranto, according to her, was filed by the OSG more than four years after the supposed expiration of the one-year statute of proscription, citing Section 11, Rule 66 of the Rules of Court.
She said the issue of lack of integrity after she allegedly failed to submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) when she was law professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law prior to her appointment to the High Court as associate justice in 2010 is not included in an impeachment complaint before the House of Representatives.
But in its petition, the OSG said the framers of the 1987 Constitution itself have placed the “moral provision” to members of the judiciary who must “be persons of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.”
It added that Sereno does not possess the qualification of proven integrity because she violated the rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) with her failure to file her SALN within the 10-year mandated period.
“[T]he invalidity of respondent’s appointment as Chief Justice was exposed in view of her failure to submit her SALN for several years from 1986 to 2006 when she was a professor at the UP College of Law. It was discovered that aside from her SALN for the years 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011, which she submitted in her applications for Associate Justice and Chief Justice, respondent only filed SALN for the years 1998, 2002 and 2006 during her tenure as law professor at the UP College of Law from 1986 up to 2006. Respondent was nominated to the positions of Associate Justice and Chief Justice despite her failure to file her SALN, which were required to determine whether she passed the constitutional requirement of integrity,” the OSG said.
Sereno was a faculty member of the University of the Philippines from 1986 until her resignation on June 1, 2006.
As a faculty member of the state university, she was considered a public officer occupying a closed career position in the career service.
Sereno nevertheless failed to regularly file her SALN in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft Law) and RA 6713 (Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees).
She, however, she prayed before the JBC that she be considered as a private person, not as a public officer, which prayer was not granted by the JBC.
The university’s Human Resources Development Office in a letter dated December 8, 2017 to the House Committee on Justice, certified that “only the SALN for December 31, 2002 can be found in the 201 file” of Sereno.