SC denies Sereno’s petition vs. 5 ‘biased’ justices

BAGUIO CITYThe Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday denied Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's motion for inhibition against her five colleagues in connection with the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), seeking to nullify her appointment.

Sereno accused Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro of showing "actual bias" and "animosity".

Before the start of the oral arguments, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio announced that the five justices, whom Sereno accused of being biased against her, had denied her motion seeking their inhibition from the case.

Sereno moved for the inhibition of the five associate justices who have testified against her in the impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives.

Carpio said the justices would explain their reasons for denying Sereno's motion for inhibition together with the resolution of the quo warranto petition.

Sereno's counsel, lawyer Alex Poblador, reiterated that their participation in the proceedings should not be considered as waiver of their position that the five justices should inhibit from the case.

During the oral argument, Solicitor General Jose Calida told the 15-man High Tribunal that it may assume jurisdiction over the quo warranto petition despite Sereno's claim that she can only be removed through impeachment.

Calida cited the case of Estrada vs. Macapagal-Arroyo where the Court exercised its jurisdiction over the quo warranto petition filed by former President Joseph Estrada against his successor.

The ruling made a full determination of the issue of whether it can oust the President who is an impeachable official, or find that she was unlawfully holding office, Calida said.

Calida said Sereno is not fit to hold the top judicial post for her failure to comply with the requirements as provided under the law.

He said the offenses that may warrant the filing of a quo warranto petition are different from the offenses that would warrant the filing of an impeachment complaint.

A quo warranto ousts a public officer on the ground of ineligibility or failing to meet the qualifications for such public office, at the time of his appointment, while impeachment removes a validly appointed or elected impeachable officer upon conviction of any of the impeachable offenses committed while in office, Calida said.

Poblador, on the other hand, said the granting of the quo warranto petition would set a very dangerous precedent, erode the independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers.

He maintained that Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution provides that impeachable officials may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust."

It is not difficult to see that allowing the Solicitor General to remove a sitting justice by quo warranto will set a dangerous precedent that will destroy this public policy, Poblador said while urging the SC justices during the oral arguments to dismiss Calida's petition.

If allowed to do so, what will stop the Solicitor General from filing similar petitions against any sitting Justice, based on any offense, whether impeachable or not, on the theory that such offense can somehow reflect on his integrity and probity? he said.

Poblador also reiterated that the Chief Justice was continuously looking for her other Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs), which she intends to submit to the proper court�the Senate impeachment tribunal.

The Chief Justice will do so, not because she has something to hide but simply because, firstly, this Honorable Court is not a trier of facts, let alone a trial court that can try and decide a complaint that she has violated the SALN laws, Poblador said.

The impeachment proceedings, he argued, have commenced and once the Articles of Impeachment are filed with the Senate, it is the Senate that has the exclusive power to try and decide those issues.

Sereno, who is on indefinite leave, earlier said she is ready to face the impeachment proceedings in the Senate. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency