DOJ chief: Amended Constitution must clarify impeachment rules

MANILA The country's Constitution, once amended, must clarify the rules on impeachment to avoid controversies in the future, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Thursday.

Guevarra made the remarks when asked about his reaction to the Supreme Court decision, which upheld the quo warranto petition that ousted Ma. Lourdes Sereno from the Chief Justice post.

The Supreme Court has made a final decision on the matter and I would like to respect that decision. But if I may suggest, in order to avoid a similar situation in the future, now that the Constitution is proposed to be amended, we'd rather make it very clear in the Constitution that the only way to remove impeachable officers will be by impeachment, Guevarra said in a TV interview.

Otherwise, the Supreme Court may change the Rules of Court pertaining to quo warranto and make it very clear likewise that even impeachable officers may be subject to quo warranto. Either way, the need is to clarify, he added.

Amid mixed reactions from the legal community regarding the High Court's ruling, the DOJ chief reiterated that he believes it was a right decision.

If you are asking me about my personal opinion as a law professor, I think the decision was correct in so far as making a distinction between quo warranto and impeachment as a mode of removing a justice of the Supreme Court, said Guevarra who was a former professor at the Ateneo College of Law.

Guevarra bared that the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) is set to meet next week to discuss the application process for the top magistrate post.

The JBC en banc will meet on Monday and will surely take this up, it is expected that the JBC will direct the publication of a notice stating that it will now accept applications or nominations for the vacant CJ position, Guevarra said.

The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen applicants to the Judiciary and top Ombudsman positions.

It is currently chaired by Senior Associate Justice, now acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, with ex-officio members Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Senator Richard Gordon, and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali. Its regular members include retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, representing the justices and chairperson of the JBC Executive Committee, Atty. Jose Mejia, representing the Academe, Atty. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and retired Judge Toribio Ilao, representing the private sector.

On Tuesday, the High Court denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by Sereno, who is the first top magistrate to be removed from office through quo warranto proceedings.

The voting stayed at 8-6 in favor of the quo warranto case against Sereno last May 11.

Those who voted to grant the quo warranto petition against Sereno were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, and Noel Tijam who penned the Court's decision.

Those who dissented were Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

In its decision, the SC ruled that Sereno's failure to submit her SALNs as a law professor at the University of the Philippines would mean her integrity was not established at the time of her application, making her ineligible to hold her position. (With reports from Rachel BaAares, OJT/PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency