Lawyer asks SC to nullify Sereno appointment

MANILA -- A lawyer on Friday filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to nullify the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Atty. Oliver Lozano, a known Marcos loyalist, said the impeachment hearing at the House of Representatives and the question on Sereno's qualification have caused deep division and dissension in the Bench and Bar.

We respectfully pray that the Honorable Court en banc, motu proprio (on its own), declare void the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno accordingly in the paramount interest of Public Welfare, Lozano said in his petition.

To end forthwith the divisive, disastrous and internationally ignominious controversy; and, thus, preserve the integrity of the judiciary and public faith in the justice system, we respectfully submit that the activists and revered Supreme Court can, under its inherent and plenary powers, promptly rule motu proprio, upon the validity of Chief Justice Sereno's appointment. The verdict will also preserve the independence of the Judiciary from Congress, Lozano said, who is the second lawyer to seek a "shortcut" in removing Sereno from her post.

'De facto'

Last Feb. 21, suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari, who called Sereno a "de facto chief justice", asked Solicitor General Jose Calida to initiate a quo warranto proceeding against her.

Under Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, a quo warranto proceeding is an action by the government against a person who unlawfully holds a public office or holds a position where he or she is not qualified.

Mallari said Sereno has no legal right to such position after she failed to submit the requirements in the application for the Chief Justice post before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

In his petition filed before the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Mallari pointed out that Sereno's appointment as chief magistrate is now being questioned following the testimonies of several of her colleagues in the impeachment proceedings being conducted by the House Committee on Justice.

Mallari cited that the validity of Sereno's appointment was raised by SC Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta in one of the hearings of the committee in view of her failure to submit all her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) to the JBC.

He said Peralta even told the members of the committee that he considers Sereno as a de facto chief justice.

Peralta's view, according to Mallari, was shared by SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro when the latter said that her appointment was unfair to other contenders.

Any lawyer worth his salt would tell you that Sereno's title to the office could be tried in a quo warranto proceedings may be instituted either by the person who claims to be entitled to the office or by the Republic of the Philippines represented by the Solicitor General or a public prosecutor, Mallari said.

He said that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.

Right now, Sereno's competence and integrity are under intense public scrutiny. Having scored very low or flunked the psychological test and in view of non-submission of all her SALNs prior to appointment, Sereno's claim to the position is tenuous, and must be challenged in quo warranto proceedings by the Solicitor General, the lawyer said.

The camp of Chief Justice Sereno, however, branded as scrap of paper the petition of a suspended lawyer asking the OSG to initiate a quo warranto proceeding to challenge the legality of her appointment to the judiciary's top post.

Removal via impeachment

Sereno's spokesperson, lawyer Josa Deinla said Mallari, whom the Supreme Court barred from practicing law for two years, should know what the Constitution says on the removal of an impeachable officer.

As president of Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Mr. Mallari should know what the Constitution says on the removal of an impeachable officer. The Chief Justice, being the fifth highest official of the land, can only be removed through an impeachment proceeding, and not through a quo warranto proceeding, Deinla said in a statement.

"We cannot help but view this latest ignorant attempt as part and parcel of the grand plan to harass, malign and humiliate the Chief Justice to force her to resign because her detractors know that the impeachment complaint lodged against her is baseless and contains allegations which are not even grounds for impeachment, she noted.

She added that the Chief Justice will not succumb to this kind of pressure and is confident that the truth is on her side.

Sereno, who is currently on indefinite leave, earlier said her leave is meant for her to prepare her legal defense in her impeachment case, which is expected to reach the Senate anytime soon.

Sereno is facing an impeachment trial for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

The complaint was filed by lawyer Larry Gadon who claimed that Sereno did not declare in her SALN the exorbitant lawyer's fees of USD745,000 or PHP37 million which she received from the Philippine government.

The impeachment complainant said the issue of SALN declaration is the strongest case presented against Sereno.

The complaint also alleged that Sereno committed corruption when she, among other things, used public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than PHP5 million; and stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency