MANILA Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno would attend Friday's Supreme Court (SC) special en banc session, stressing that she is also ready to face the impeachment complaint filed against her after completing her preparations and returning from an indefinite leave from high court.
This was bared by Atty. Carlo Cruz, one of Sereno's spokespersons, on Wednesday.
Cruz said Sereno is ready to preside over the special en banc session on Friday where the quo warranto petition is expected to be tackled and resolved by the court.
There is no inconsistency between her returning to work and her preparedness for the quo warranto petition. She has maintained all along. Now she is here to emphasize that she will adhere to lawful and constitutional process, he told reporters outside the SC.
This quo warranto petition may not be the only item in the agenda. If and when it is discussed, then she will inhibit herself. But with respect to the other matters that may be included in the agenda, she would preside over there than these matters, Cruz added.
If found guilty, Sereno will be the first Chief Justice to be removed from office through quo warranto proceedings.
Cruz said they would file a motion for reconsideration once the court rules in favor of the petition.
It has been reported that the court has decided to move from May 17 to May 11 its deliberation on the quo warranto petition.
Cruz added that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has been informed about Sereno's return to her post.
He, however, said there is no need for Sereno to seek permission from the en banc to perform her duties as Chief Justice, noting that she has only an administrative duty to inform the SC about the termination of her indefinite leave.
She is here, up until all the process is complete. Resignation has never been an option. She will not resign. She is fighting for what she has always maintained as the right thing. She is fighting for the truth and for the Constitution, Cruz said.
Sereno's camp shared the opinion of constitutionalist and former SC Justice Vicente Mendoza that the Chief Justice is legally within her rights to end her leave and return to the office.
Justice Mendoza stated that preventing her from resuming her post 'would bring about a constitutional crisis and upset the balance of power in government', Cruz noted.
Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the quo warranto petition seeking the nullification of Sereno's appointment as Chief Justice over her alleged failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) for several years from 1986 to 2006 when she was a professor at the UP College of Law.
It was found out that aside from her SALNS for the years 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011, which she submitted in her applications for Associate Justice and Chief Justice, Sereno only filed SALNs for the years 1998, 2002, and 2006 during her tenure as law professor at the UP College of Law from 1986 up to 2006.
Sereno has been insisting 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.
She cited as basis Article XI, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution which states, The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman 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.
The chief magistrate also maintained that the one-year prescriptive period for filing such action has long prescribed pursuant to Section 11 of Rule 66 of the Rules of Court.
If the Court's ruling on the quo warranto will push through on Friday, it will come ahead of the House of Representatives' plenary vote on the justice committee's articles of impeachment against Sereno when Congress resumes session in mid-May.
Sereno will be deemed impeached if at least one-third of the House members vote to accept the committee report.
The impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon contains four grounds corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.
The complaint also alleged 27 acts constituting the offenses charged against the Chief Justice.
Sereno was cited with an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives based on her failure to indicate her entire PHP30-million fee in the arbitration proceedings against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc. (Piatco) as government counsel in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
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. (With reports from Red Andador, OJT/PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency