Philippines Today

Switch to desktop

SERENO MUST BE OUT OF S.C.: DUTERTE

President irked, now wants Congress to fasttrack impeachment process

By ALFRED GABOT | Editor in Chief

 

Photo: Rappler

 

DAVAO CITY/BAGUIO CITY – Angered by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s challenge to him to explain to the people his role in the bid to remove her in the Supreme Court,  President Rodrigo Duterte, who had earlier declared he had not meddled in the case, now declared her an "enemy" and wants her out in the high court, adding she does not deserve to be there.

 

Following his speech, the High Tribunal held its session in Baguio City and held the oral arguments on the quo warranto petition filed against Sereno. Before proceeding with the arguments, the tribunal rebuffed Sereno when her petition to inhibit five Associate Justices in the case was thrown out by the court, giving way to the arguments attended by Sereno and her lawyers.

 

Specifically, Sereno, in a speech on April 9 during a Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan) event, dared Mr. Duterte to explain why the government's lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida, was seeking the invalidation of her appointment through a quo warranto petition filed before the Supreme Court.


Sereno said: “Mr. President, if you have no hand in this, why did Solicitor General Jose Calida, who reports to you, file the quo warranto?”

 

“Surely, you must explain this unconstitutional act,” Sereno told a gathering in Quezon City organized by the Movement Against Tyranny.

 

Sereno hinted that there was an “unseen hand” pushing for her impeachment.

 

“Hindi po maitatangging may kamay na gumagalaw dito. (It cannot be denied that there is a hand moving behind the scenes),” she said.

 

The chief justice also branded Calida’s efforts to support the impeachment case against her as “the height of its absurdity” as the solicitor general was trying to gather 30-year-old records.

 

She quipped that the solicitor general should also look for her high school records.

 

Sereno, insisting that she could be removed only through an impeachment proceeding and not through the quo warranto case, stood firm she would not resign and that she was ready for the Senate impeachment trial.

 

At a press conference after making his departure speech for the Boao Forum in Hainan, China, Duterte also instructed the House of Representatives, where he holds a supermajority of allies, to "fast track" Sereno's impeachment even as the Supreme Court was yet to decide on the quo warranto seeking her ouster.

 

"Ikaw Sereno, sinabi ko na sa 'yo, hindi ako nakialam. If you are insisting, count me in. Count me in and I will egg Calida to do his best. Ako na mismo maglakad, magkalaban sa ’yo. Sinabi ko na sa'yong hindi ako nakikialam," the angry Duterte said.

 

"Sige ka diyan, daldal nang daldal, sige, upakan kita. I will help any investigator, talagang upakan kita. I am putting you on notice na. I am now your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court. I will see to it then after that I will request the Congress, go into the impeachment right away," he said.

 

Duterte said the Supreme Court can hear the quo warranto petition "simultaneously" with Congress' hearing on the impeachment.

 

"I’d like to ask Speaker [Pantaleon] Alvarez now, kindly fast track the impeachment of Sereno. She is bad for the Philippines," he said.

 

"I am asking Congress, what is taking you so long? Do not create any crisis in this country. I will not hesitate to do what is to the best interest of my country. If it calls for your forced removal, I will do it," he said.

 

Duterte said a simple public school teacher could get fired if she does not file her SALN, yet Sereno, who earned attorney's fees for working as government counsel, did not submit hers.

 

"What is this special treatment? I’ll go to jail with her; diyan ako sa gitna ng selda ko—dito si De Lima at doon siya," he said, referring to Senator Leila De Lima, who has been detained on drug charges for more than a year.

 

Sereno in a speech earlier on Monday, April 9, said the President should explain why SolGene Calida filed a "quo warranto" petition before the Supreme Court to invalidate her appointment.

 

Sereno was appointed chief justice by Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino 3rd, in 2012 after the impeachment trial that unseated the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

 

Sereno, the youngest to be appointed chief justice, was forced by her colleagues to go on indefinite leave in March amid her impeachment woes.

 

In his petition, Calida asked Sereno's colleagues to invalidate her appointment, citing her supposed failure to submit her statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth to the Judicial and Bar Council when they were screening applicants for the Chief Justice post in 2012.

 

Calida explained before the High Court that he acted on his own in filing the petition and never got any instruction from Mr. Duterte or any other high ranking official.

 

Calida also insisted that Sereno can be removed through the quo warranto proceedings, independent of the impeachment complaint filed against the Chief Justice.

 

Following Duterte’s instruction, Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice which acted on the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, said that the House will act on the case when it resumes its session in May.

 

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, at the same time, assured its approval and sending its complaint the Senate, acting as Impeachment Tribunal.

 

The impeachment complaint accuses Sereno of 11 acts of culpable violation of the Constitution, nine acts of betrayal of public trust, four acts of other high crimes and three acts of corruption.

 

Sereno is said to have failed to submit a complete set of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required by the Judicial and Bar Council, which screens judiciary appointees.

 

She is also accused of manipulating the screening process for court appointees, including undermining the appointment of Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza.

 

The House justice panel is drafting the articles of impeachment against the chief justice, which will be submitted to the plenary for approval.

 

After several hours of oral arguments, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio directed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Solicitor General Jose Calida to submit their respective memorandum on the petition that seeks the top magistrate's ouster.

 

Carpio also ordered both parties to turn in their memorandum and all the documents requested from them on or before April 20 without extension.

 

After this, the case will be deemed submitted for the resolution, said Carpio, before ending more than five hours of oral arguments that were marked with heated exchanges, mostly between Sereno and Associate Justice Teresita de Castro.

 

A memorandum contains a summary of arguments, which may include additional claims that will bolster the parties' positions.

 

The Supreme Court en banc earlier denied 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, 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.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.

Copyrighted for Philippines Today Tel: (650) 872-3200. Website developed by: SP3Media.com

Top Desktop version