• Quo warranto or impeachment? Lawyers differ on ousting Sereno


    LAWYER Larry Gadon said on Saturday he preferred that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno be removed through quo warranto proceedings, but clarified that this was not a change of heart.

    The complainant in the impeachment case against the chief magistrate made the statement during the Saturday Forum at Annabel’s restaurant in Quezon City.

    “Let me make this clear…I believe that…Congress will vote to impeach her and I also believe that the Senate…will also convict her. However, if there is an issue of her being appointed void ab initio…I’d rather that she be removed based on purely legal reason, that is, her appointment was void,” Gadon said.

    Gadon said that when he filed the impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives, he did not know that Sereno failed to submit all of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) when she applied for the position of chief justice.

    Gadon filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno at the House of Representatives on August 30, 2017.

    In the complaint, Gadon accused the magistrate of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, “other high crimes,” and betrayal of public trust for allegedly manipulating the Judicial and Bar Council that appoints judges; failing to truthfully disclose her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, and; using public funds to finance a “lavish lifestyle” by supposedly ordering the purchase of a bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser.

    The Constitution gives the House of Representatives exclusive power to initiate impeachment cases. Citizens may file complaints, provided that they get a lawmaker’s endorsement.

    A vote of one-third of the House members is needed for the matter to proceed to the Senate which, under the Constitution, has the sole power to try and decide impeachment cases.

    Earlier, the SC en banc ordered Sereno to go on indefinite leave, which began on Thursday (March 1).

    ‘Doomed to fail’

    The Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, led by suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari, has asked the Office of the Solicitor General to initiate quo warranto proceedings in the Supreme Court.

    The group argued that Sereno’s appointment was void from the start because of her alleged failure to submit all her SALNs to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

    But in a statement issued on Saturday, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that “[a]ny quo warranto petition questioning the authority or basis for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to hold the position of chief magistrate is doomed to fail.”

    “Section 11 of Rule 66 of the Rules of Court provides that a petition for quo warranto must be filed within one (1) year after the cause of action arose, which in this case was when the appointment of Sereno was made and/or the time she assumed office as Supreme Court Chief Justice,” Lagman said.

    In the same statement, he said that Sereno’s “appointment is valid and legal.”

    Sereno was appointed as chief justice on August 24, 2012 and she assumed office the next day.

    “The prescription of the period reads: ‘Nothing contained in this Rule shall be construed to authorize an action against a public officer or employee for his ouster from office unless the same be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of such ouster, or the right of the petitioner to hold such office or position, arose,’” Lagman said.

    “The quo warranto ruse is an admission that an impeachment trial will not prosper in the Senate,” he added.

    Sereno’s camp earlier maintained that she complied with all of the JBC’s requirements. According to one of her spokesmen, lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, she submitted her SALNs for 2009, 2010, and 2011.

    In a statement issued on Saturday, Akbayan Rep. Tomas Villarin said that “Sereno is not perfect. Her
    imperfections are not impeachable. The impeachment trial has not even started nor probable cause established.

    Yet [Supreme Court] colleagues ‘impeached’ her just the same by voting to have her take an indefinite leave. The Court bowed to the pressure of an impending railroad of her impeachment in the House of Representatives by doing it themselves.”

    Psych exam

    Sereno’s appointment cannot also be declared invalid based on the results of her psychiatric examination when she applied for the top judicial post, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Saturday.

    Drilon said there were only three requirements for a person to be qualified for the Supreme Court post, and a high psychiatric exam score is not one of them.

    To qualify as a magistrate, a person only needs to be a natural born Filipino, at least 45 years old and a law practitioner.

    “In my view, the additional ground that they have been saying is not a violation of public trust, Drilon added.

    The Senate minority leader was reacting to the earlier statement of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who said Sereno’s appointment to the High Tribunal could be deemed “invalid” because of her psychiatric evaluation.

    Alvarez based his statement on the evaluation of a clinical psychologist who believed Sereno was unsuitable for the chief justice post.

    The psychologist, Geraldine Tria, gave the testimony on Tuesday after a four-hour-long closed-door session conducted by the House justice panel that is hearing the impeachment complaint filed by against Sereno.

    Sereno, based on the article published by The Manila Times, got a score of 4 out of 5, with 5 being the lowest, in her psychiatric examination when she applied for chief justice..

    Even the quo warranto case being pushed by the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution would not prosper, according Drilon.

    He said it would be better for Sereno to face impeachment proceedings as provided by law.

    “There is already a complaint and it is being heard in the House of Representatives and if they believe that there is enough basis, then they could transmit it to the Senate,” Drilon pointed out.



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