MANILAThe Office of the Solicitor General on Friday scored its fifth legal victory with the Supreme Court voting 8-6, granting the quo warranto petition that is seeking to nullify the appointment of Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice.
Solicitor General Jose Calida said the removal of Sereno as high magistrate has maintained the stability and integrity of the judiciary, the decision being an epitome of judicial independence.
I would like to extend my appreciation to the learned magistrates of the Supreme Court for once again upholding the primacy of the Constitution. Despite the raucous voices of those pretending to champion the Constitution, the magistrates stayed true to their oath and faithfully adhered to the rule of law, Calida said in a statement.
The SC en banc voted for Sereno's removal on the basis of her incomplete submission of her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
Sereno is the first Chief Justice to be removed from office through quo warranto proceedings. The ruling shall be immediately executory according to the high court.
Calida also asked the Filipinos to continue the fight against those who intend to undermine the stability and integrity, not only of the judiciary, but the government as a whole.
Sereno's removal was the fifth legal victory of Calida. The first was to allow the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) in Taguig City.
The second was when the SC gave the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa City the go-signal to hear and decide on the drug cases filed against former justice secretary and now detained Senator Leila de Lima.
The third was when the SC affirmed in December 2017 its ruling that declared constitutional and legal President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao region, while the fourth was when the high court affirmed the constitutionality of the full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao as part of the government's campaign to quell terrorism in the region.
Protests outside SC
Before the court ruling, pro- and anti-Sereno groups met outside the DOJ compound near the Supreme Court waiting for the result of the voting on the quo warranto petition filed against the Chief Justice.
Holding placards and signs calling for Sereno's resignation, anti-Sereno groups included the one led by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, and those with members of the Citizen's Crime Watch, Pwersa Pilipino Patungo sa Pagbabago, and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
Meanwhile, Sereno supporters included members of Tindig Pilipinas, The Civil Society Organization, and The Silent Majority. They gathered in front of the Supreme Court compound to show their support for the chief magistrate.
The pro-Sereno groups held a prayer vigil since Thursday night outside the SC building.
Upon hearing the result of the SC en banc voting, the anti-Sereno groups erupted into cheers and chants, expressing their gladness over the decision. The people started clapping, others hugging each other, while some were even crying when they heard the news of Sereno's ouster.
What it means for us is that it will underscore a greater accountability and stricter compliance with the requirements. From now on, there will be no more cavalier attitude towards applicants to the highest court, which is as it should be, Topacio said.
Sereno faces her supporters
After the court decision, Sereno went outside the Supreme Court to face her supporters. She said that democracy was once again robbed from them.
Kaya't ang araw na ito ay hindi kabiguan kundi isang tagumpay sapagkat ipinakita ng lahat ang inyong lakas na kayo ay nasa panig ng katotohanan laban sa makapangyarihan (This day is not a day of loss but a day of victory, because you have shown your strength on the side of truth against those in power), Sereno said.
She also said that so long as they stand for the truth, they will never be defeated.
Ang araw na ito ay laban ng paglaban (This day is a day of battle)," she added.
Sereno earlier insisted that the SC has no jurisdiction to hear and resolve the quo warranto petition since she can only be removed through impeachment proceedings conducted by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.
Lawyer Larry Gadon also filed an impeachment complaint before Congress against Sereno for alleged corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.
The impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives also alleged her failure to indicate in her SALN her entire PHP30-million fee in the arbitration proceedings against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc. as government counsel. (With reports from Eleazar Batalla and Shaina Nicolas, OJT/PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency