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SC chief in fighting form as SolGen files petition to oust her, impeachment readied



(Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer)


MANILA — As the House of Representatives Committee on Justice readies its verdict on whether or not there is probable cause to elevate an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to the Senate acting as Impeachment Tribunal, the clamor to remove her from office went stronger as the Office of the Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court to void Sereno's appointment in a quo warranto petition.


But the Chief Justice remained in fighting form saying she is ready to face trial and disprove all allegations against her before the Senate, which is the only body or institution that can remove her from office via two-thirds vote of all its members. She said she will not back down in her fight for truth and justice.


In Baguio City, Sereno stressed she will not resign and would rather be given a day in the Senate impeachment court to see if there is probable cause to impeach her.


“That is what I am consistently saying to those who have asked me to resign. I do not owe anyone the duty to resign. I owe the people the duty to tell my story,” Sereno said in her speech delivered on the “Road to Judicial Reform” before law students, officials, and faculty members of the University of Baguio and some regional and municipal judges in the Cordillera region.


Sereno called on the public to "respect the impeachment process" by taking the "only allowable course under the Constitution”.


"What will happen next is critically important to our democracy,” she said. “The only constitutionally acceptable manner allowed for handing the impeachment proceeding in the House is for it to vote on the question of probable cause in a timely manner and not to drag it further nor couple it with calls for extra-constitutional help to facilitate the ouster of the chief justice.”


She added it is not within the bounds of the law for the "Supreme Court to do the job of the Senate and oust the Chief Justice whether by an internal action or by an action of the Solicitor General”.


“And it is not and it should not be the House delaying what is already an agonizing and long proceeding,” she added. "Either the House has found probable cause or if they have, the House must immediately elevate it to the Senate and not delay.”


She said the proponents of her impeachment must bring the case to the Senate if they are so sure of their evidence.


Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House Committee on Justice, meanwhile, called on Sereno to resign to spare the nation of a gruelling impeachment trial.


The camp of Chief Justice Sereno, at the same time, admitted that she will certainly be impeached by the House of Representatives, but said she was treated unfairly during the hearing of the impeachment complaint filed against her.


Sereno’s spokesperson Josa Deinla acknowledged that the chief magistrate’s impeachment in the House was forthcoming.


“She was denied of her constitutional rights under the Constitution. So in the end, we see that she will be impeached,” Deinla said.


Umali said the quo warranto petition filed by the Solicitor General against Sereno will not affect the impeachment case filed against her before the House justice committee, adding the quo warranto proceeding differs in jurisdiction with that of an impeachment proceeding.


"Iba yung jurisdiction ng quo warranto (A quo warranto has a different jurisdiction). Quo warranto presumes that the appointed official is not qualified to be appointed or was not qualified to be appointed. (It involves the) issue of qualification that is not covered by impeachment," Umali said.


Quo warranto is a legal proceeding which is used to challenge a person's legal right to hold public office; meanwhile, an impeachment is the process of charging a high public official on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, or other high crimes.


"Impeachment presupposes a valid appointment while quo warranto questions the qualifications of an officer and that is well within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court," Umali said.


He said if Sereno's appointment would be deemed invalid, it will "render the impeachment proceedings functus officio, mooted."


Umali said until the high court invalidates Sereno's appointment, it is still considered valid. Thus, both quo warranto and impeachment proceedings can "proceed simultaneously."

But Senate leaders warned against the legal consequences of the quo warranto petition.

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said such move, if entertained and acted favorably by the high tribunal, will open the same process to other impeachable officials, including the President. Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III acceded to the assertions of his colleague adding it will “also weaken the Senate in the process.”.

Members of the political opposition at the House of Representatives accused the Duterte administration of resorting to extra constitutional means such as the quo warranto petition to remove Sereno.


This developed after 13 Supreme Court associate justices clarified that they had forced Sereno to go on an “indefinite leave” to spare and preserve the integrity of the High Court and to insulate it from politics and the effects of an impeachment trial.


Sereno earlier said she was to go on a 15-day “wellness leave” but had to retract her statement and that of her lawyers and apologized for “misleading information” and the confusion that had ensued with her statement.


The 13 associate justices issued an unprecedented joint statement clarifying that the Chief Justice was taking an indefinite and not a “wellness” leave.


Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said the action of the justices was not a mutiny but an act to “preserve the integrity” of the SC and insulate the High Court from the effects of the politics of an imminent impeachment trial.

The sole function of the statement, Carpio said, was to show the SC is “functioning normally” while Sereno goes on leave.


Carpio said that Sereno herself had agreed to the suggestion that she takes an indefinite leave of absence.


The statement was signed by Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado 


Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic L eonen, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Gimenez Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo. Only Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa did not sign the letter because he was on leave.


 In his petition, Solicitor General Jose Calida said Sereno is "unlawfully holding" her post due to her alleged failure to fully disclose her wealth and file complete statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN). The petition also cited the chief justice for "usurpation of a public office."

According to the Solicitor General's petition, Sereno failed to declare her wealth in full during 17 years out of her 28-year teaching stint at the University of the Philippines College of Law.


From 1986 to 2006, Sereno's Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) on record only covered 1998, 2002, and 2006.


Public officials are required under the law to file SALNs.


"The blatant disregard by respondent Sereno to comply with the requirements of the law and Constitution proves her lack of integrity,"  Calida said.


"Hence, she is unlawfully holding the position of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court," he added.


When Sereno applied for chief justice in 2012, the mandatory submission of SALNs for a period of 10 years was a requirement instituted by the Judicial and Bar Council, the body that screens and shortlists applicants for the judiciary, according to the OSG.


For failing to meet the SALN requirements, Sereno failed to meet the constitutional requirement of "competence, integrity, probity, and independence" for officials of the judiciary, the OSG said.

Acting on the petition, the Supreme Court ordered the Chief Justice to answer the Office of the Solicitor General's (OSG) petition seeking to void her appointment as it junked another petition filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano that sought to also remove her from office. 


Sereno was given 10 days to comment on the OSG's petition for "quo warranto" which alleged that she is "unlawfully holding" her post due to her supposed failure to fully disclose her wealth.


"The court, without giving due course to the petition, requires the respondent to submit her comment on the petition for 'quo warranto' within a period of 10 days from receipt of notice," said Theodore Te, spokesperson of the Supreme Court.


Te added that Associate Justice Marvic Leonen dissented and expressed his opinion that the petition for "quo warranto" against the Chief Justice should be “dismissed outright.”


At the same time, the High Court also junked a petition filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano, which sought to invalidate the chief magistrate's appointment.


Lozano’s petition was not a quo warranto. While it claimed Sereno did not comply with mandatory legal requirements for the top magistrate's post, it did not cite what requirements Sereno had failed to comply with.


Instead, Lozano invoked the high court’s “inherent and plenary powers” in seeking Sereno’s ouster “motu proprio.” 


Sereno was appointed to the high court in 2012 by then president Benigno Aquino III following the ouster of the late chief magistrate Renato Corona, who was removed for undeclared wealth.


The country's first female chief justice was expected to stay in her post until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2030.


The quo warranto petition, according to Solicitor General Jose Calida, is the proper petition because Sereno is “unlawfully” holding her current position.

“The blatant disregard by respondent Sereno to comply with the requirements of the law and Constitution proves her lack of integrity, hence she is unlawfully holding the position as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” Calida said.


The House committee on justice is set to vote on Thursday, March 8, to determine if there is probable cause for the impeachment complaint. 


In a 34-page petition for quo warranto, Solicitor General Jose Calida seeks SC to declare Sereno’s appointment on August 24, 2012 as Chief Justice as void and oust her from the judiciary's top post.


The petition emanated from a letter filed by suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari, urging Calida to initiate a quo warranto proceeding against the top magistrate.


Last Feb. 21, Mallari, who called Sereno a "de facto chief justice", asked the OSG 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.


Calida insisted that a quo warranto proceeding is a "proper remedy to question the validity of Sereno’s appointment."


“Petition for Quo Warranto at the Supreme Court where you will be judged by your peers who know you and the Constitution better,” Calida said in a press conference.


Sereno's camp has earlier dismissed Mallari's petition, insisting that an impeachment is the only way to oust the chief magistrate.


But the Solicitor General argued that an impeachment proceeding is different from a quo warranto proceeding.


“Your lawyer-spokepersons argued before media that there is only one option to oust an impeachable officer and that is through impeachment. They are horribly wrong. A lawyer who has a basic grasp of our Constitution and jurisprudence ought to know that Impeachment and Quo Warranto are two entirely different proceedings with entirely different grounds for filing,” he explained.


Calida said that these two proceedings run on different tracks.


The top government counsel said the first track is Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution which provides that impeachable officers may be removed from office on impeachment and conviction of culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust. The unwritten assumption here is that the officer was eligible and that his assumption of office was valid. That is not our route in the Sereno case.


The second track is Quo Warranto. This is the proper remedy to question the validity of Sereno’s appointment. Quo Warranto is recognized as an extraordinary legal remedy sanctioned not only by the Rules of Court, law and jurisprudence but by the Constitution itself whereby the State challenges a person to show by what authority he holds a public office or exercises a public franchise.


Calida also said that constitutional basis for ousting Sereno from her office are the following:


Section 5 (1), Article VIII of the Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to exercise original jurisdiction over Quo Warranto cases, among others.


Section 7 (3) Article VIII of the Constitution insists that a Member of the Judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence. Unfortunately for respondent Sereno she flunked the test of integrity when she failed to file more or less 10 SALNs.


Section 17, Article XI (Accountability of Public Officers) requires the submission of SALNs as often as maybe required by law (RA 3109). The blatant disregard by respondent Sereno to comply with the requirements of the law and Constitution proves her lack of integrity hence, she is unlawfully holding the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.


Calida also said that his filing of a quo warranto proceeding against Sereno is "an act of kindness."


“I don’t expect you to appreciate this but believe me, this is an act of kindness to a fellow lawyer,” he said.


"The Office of the Solicitor General will not allow you to undergo the indignity that the late Chief Justice Renato Corona suffered at the hands of politicians who unjustly convicted him. You do not deserve that," Calida said.


Sereno will also be given a chance to answer the allegations against her, Calida added.


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


Asked if he will ask for a halt order on the proceeding at the House of Representatives, Calida insisted that the quo warranto proceeding is different from the impeachment.


"They can proceed with their impeachment. Insofar as we are concerned, proper remedy is quo warranto," Calida told reporters.


Sereno's camp urged the SC to dismiss the quo warranto petition, noting that it has no legal basis.


“The Supreme Court ought not to entertain the quo warranto petition for it has absolutely no basis in law and in the Constitution. The high tribunal should dismiss the petition outright on the basis that quo warranto is not a proper remedy. Under the 1987 Constitution, the Chief Justice may only be removed from office upon impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court,” Sereno said in a statement sent to reporters covering Supreme Court.


“We wish to reiterate that this latest action by the Solicitor General is 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 case, which was built on lies, won’t stand a chance in the Senate,” according to the statement.


Sereno also called the OSG's move a 'cruel act' towards the Filipino people, stressing that she is ready to face trial and disprove all allegations against her before the Senate, which is the only body or institution that can remove her from office via two-thirds vote of all its members.


The Chief Justice's camp also said the instant action for quo warranto against her is devoid of basis, not to mention 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.


They also explained the Supreme Court, guided by its pronouncements in Jarque v. Ombudsman, In Re: Raul M. Gonzales and Cuenco v. Fernan, had laid down the rule that an impeachable officer, who is a member of the Bar, cannot be disbarred without first being impeached. The same principle applies to the quo warranto case filed against the Chief Justice. As pointed out in Cuenco v. Fernan, to grant a complaint for disbarment of a member of the Supreme Court—particularly then Associate Justice Marcelo Fernan, who later became Chief Justice— during his incumbency, would in effect be to circumvent and hence to run afoul of the constitutional mandate that members of the Court may be removed from office only by impeachment for and conviction of certain offenses listed in Article XI (2) of the Constitution.


The 1987 Constitution is crystal clear: it explicitly states that (1) an impeachable official can only be removed from office by impeachment; (2) that the sole power to impeach an official belongs to the House of Representatives; and (3) the sole court for impeachment trials is the Senate. Any attempt to remove the Chief Justice that does not fall under these parameters is patently unconstitutional. All attempts to unseat the Chief Justice via extra-constitutional means make a mockery of the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives and, subsequently, the impeachment trial in the Senate.


Art. XI Section 2. 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. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment. 


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 US$745,000 or P37 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. 


Published in Headline

Cited for his failure to show up in Senate hearing on P1-B wealth probe, hiding in US?



(Photo from SunStar)


PASAY CITY — The Senate has ordered the arrest of resigned Commission on Elections Chairman Juan Andres Bautista for repeatedly failing to attend the Senate investigation into his alleged over P1 billion ill-gotten wealth. 


The arrest order of Bautista, who was last known to have flown to Oklahoma where his brother, Dr. Martin Bautista and famile reside, was signed by Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Feb. 21 but was made public only on Feb. 26. 

Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committe on banks, financial institutions and currencies, said the arrest warrant would be forwarded to addresses of Bautista by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA) Jose Balajadia with the help of law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Immigration.


Escudero said his committee will schedule another hearing before Congress adjourns in March.


Escudero’s committee earlier cited Bautista for contempt and ordered the former poll chief’s arrest, adding that a warrant would be served on him so he could be delivered to the Senate when he returns to the country.


 Bautista, who resigned after it became imminent that he would be facing impeachment proceedings following the expose of his wife about his unexplained wealth, earlier sent a letter to the Senate saying he had not received any invitation to appear before the Senate committee’s inquiry.


He said he was out of the country since November 21 last year to “explore professional opportunities” and “seek assistance for certain medical challenge” he was facing.

Bautista, also a former chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) attached to the letter a certification from a doctor with a letterhead address in Oklahoma City.


In the medical certificate, Bautista's doctor said the former poll chief is suffering from secondary pulmonary hypertension possibly due to obstructive sleep apnea, essential hypertension and hyperlipidemia.”


Bautista was also advised to avoid prolonged travel "due to increased risk of thromboembolism," according to the medical certificate signed by Branislav Schifferdecker, MD from the Oklahoma Heart Hospital Physicians.


Bautista’s wife, Patricia, has accused the former Comelec chief of allegedly amassing nearly P1-billion worth of unexplained wealth, and of owning more than 30 bank accounts with the Luzon Development Bank’s (LDB) amounting to P329 million.


Mrs. Bautista also accused Bautista of allegedly abandoning her and their children, which the former Comelec official vehemently denied and even accused his wife of alleged infidelity.


In his letter to the Senate earlier, Bautista stated: "I understand from news reports that a subpoena has been issued because of my non-appearance in the hearing. In this regard, I respectfully ask that the subpoena be recalled since I never received the invitation."


Bautista also told the committee that he "will be pleased to answer in writing any appropriate questions that the Honorable Committee may have regarding the referenced topic."


But Escudero said Bautista could just be making an excuse for not attending the Senate hearings.


Escudero said the fact that Bautista did not even give a forwarding address is "clearly an attempt to stifle" the proceedings.


"That letter for me is a ruse. There is no good faith in it. He asked for the subpoena to be recalled and to instead answer in writing. He is a former chairman of a constitutional commission; he has no legal and formal address here in the country. That is not normal. At the very least, he should have given us a forwarding address where we can communicate with him but so far he has not done that. That is the very opposite of what he had said in the past that he will squarely face any and all allegations lodged against him in any forum," Escudero said.


Bautista's siblings, Susan Afan and Martin Bautista, were also invited by the committee but both also failed to show up. Afan wrote the committee that she could not attend the hearing because of prior commitments and that as a private citizen, she had no knowledge of the Anti-Money Laundering Law and thus begged to be excluded from the committee hearing.


"Kung ayaw nila mag-attend, ayaw nila magsapubliko, mag- execute sila ng waiver. We can't compel them to execute a waiver, but we can compel their attendance to the hearing. They can tell the committee that they will not issue a waiver, they can invoke whatever rights they have under the laws and we will respect that. But they cannot do that through letters alone and hide behind it," Escudero said.


"Hamon ang binibitiwan ko kay Chairman Bautista: Kung wala siyang tinatago, wala siyang dapat katakutan. Kung wala siyang kinatatakutan, wala siyang dapat itago. Kung di man niya kaya to personally attend, he can talk to his siblings for all of them to execute a waiver and we will continue the proceedings without them," the senator said.

Nietes retains crown, Viloria falls in California bouts

Published in Sports

(Photo from Twitter | @coachala)


INGLEWOOD, California — Donnie "Ahas" Nietes, the longest reigning Filipino world champion, continued his rule after stopping Juan Carlos Reveco of Argentina to retain his IBF flyweight title last week at The Forum in Inglewood, California.


Filipino American Brian "The Hawaiian Punch" Viloria, however, bowed to Ukranian Artem Dalakian via unanimous decision in their battle for the vacant WBA flyweight championship also at The Forum.


It was a dominating performance for the Ukranian, with all three judges scoring the bout, 118-109.


Viloria immediately found himself rocked in the first two rounds before recovering late in round two and settling himself in the next three rounds. He would then press on Dalakian in the seventh and eighth rounds, landing solid punches.


That, however, seemed to be his last hurrah as Dalakian connected with a crushing hook to Viloria’s body in the ninth round as he continued to pummel “The Hawaiian Punch.”


Viloria was also bloodied in the 11th round after taking an inadvertent elbow to the forehead.


Dalakian (16-0, 11 KOs) remained unbeaten and won the flyweight title vacated by Japanese Kazuto Ioka while Viloria (38-6, 23 KOs) saw his winning streak cut short at two.

Nietes, for his part, unleashed a flurry of punches to the body that dropped Reveco. He managed to get back up but was still very wobbly, prompting the referee to stop the fight at the 53-second mark of the seventh round.


The 35-year-old Nietes, who improved to 41-1-4, 23, has been a world champion since winning the WBO minimumweight crown after scoring a unanimous decision win over Pornsawan Porpramook of Thailand on Sept. 30, 2007.


Reveco, 34, saw his three-fight win streak come to an end, absorbing the fourth loss of his career. His record now stands at 39-4 with 19 knockouts.

Ellen-John Lloyd wedding soon in Cebu?

Published in Entertainment

(Photo from Instagram | @maria.elena.adarna)


There is no more stopping the wedding of sexy star Ellen Adarna and boyfriend John Lloyd Cruz.


Reports point out that the couple will walk to the altar soon, except that they have been mum on the exact date and place of the rumored wedding.


But the wedding may happen sooner than their fans and friends think, reports circulating in Manila indicated.


According to a source close to the actress, the lovebirds might tie the knot in summer, as was earlier reported by the STAR and, presumably on Ellen’s birthday, April 2. 


And the wedding could be held in Ellen’s territory – Cebu.


Published reports in Manila indicate that the source speculates that the two might get married by then because the actress likes holding big parties on her birthday. 


There are reports that the two may already have had a secret wedding, before the public wedding ceremonies.


Just last week, Ellen, in a social media post, showed an apparent baby bump on an Instagram story. John Lloyd can be seen walking beside her.


The post came about a week after the couple posted the same photo of a location with a picturesque green view, which Ellen captioned: “Our future view.”


Earlier, Ellen posted a photo wearing a ring, presumably coming from the actor.


The celebrity couple later were photographed wearing identical rings on their hands, making many netizens speculate that the co-actors may have had a secret wedding.



The first photo, uploaded on Instagram by a private netizen who appears to be a friend of the couple, showed John Lloyd and Ellen Adarna having dinner in a restaurant.


Netizens commented that they noticed that the actor now wears a "wedding" ring that seemed to be not there before as seen in his previous Instagram posts. The photo was posted November last year.


Rumors that the couple already got hitched in Quezon City was further fanned by new photographs of the couple that surfaced in news.


 The photos showed the pair queuing in immigration at an airport in Osaka, Japan. Those who took the photos did not notice if Ellen indeed has a baby bump, although they noticed that the actress seemed to have gained weight. In one of the photos, it can be seen that Ellen's hand also bore a ring similar to that of John Lloyd's. The picture's photographer reportedly heard the actor call Ellen "love."


Apart from the supposed secret wedding, netizens also allege that Ellen was pertaining to John Lloyd's ex girlfriend, Angelica Panganiban, when Ellen posted on her Instagram story a cryptic post about moving on.


The post showed a video clip of the movie “Meet Joe Black,” where actor Anthony Hopkins asks Brad Pitt, “It’s hard to let go isn’t it?,” to which Brad replies: “Yes. It is, Bill.”


A day after this post, Ellen deactivated her Instagram account and set up a new private one. Her new Instagram account is believed to be “@emg.a” because it replied in a comment on John Lloyd's Instagram account, @ekomsi, and to Beauty Gonzalez's post on Instagram.


Angelica, recently, has also been a tabloid fodder for revealing that a former boyfriend has been stolen from her and there are no closures for her and her ex, who netizens suspect to be John Lloyd. Angelica also guested in Moira's concert last weekend and was reported by ABS-CBN to have asked "Bakit lagi ako iniiwan?" in a spoken word performance.

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