SC affirms Sereno ouster, CJ post now officially up for grabs

Image from CNN Philippines

THE Chief Justice position is now officially up for grabs after the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed with finality its decision nullifying Maria Lourdes A. Sereno’s appointment to the Judiciary’s top post in 2012.

During Tuesday’s regular en banc session of the High Tribunal, the magistrates junked the motion for reconsideration filed by Sereno seeking the reversal of the Court’s May 11 ruling, which granted the quo warranto petition filed against her by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida.

The High Court also officially opened the Chief Justice position for nominations and applications since under the Constitution, the President has 90 days to fill up vacancy in the Judiciary.

“The Supreme Court en banc, during its session today [Tuesday], in the matter of…Republic of the Philipines, represented by Solicitor General Jose Calida v. Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, denied with finality respondent’s motion for reconsideration of the Court’s May 11, 2018, decision,” announced Teodoro Te, SC spokesman.

“For purposes of Article VIII, Section 4, paragraph 1 [of the Constitution], the 90-day period for filling the vacancy in the Office of Chief Justice commences today, June 19, 2018,” he added.

Te also said the Court maintained its May 11 voting on the petition, with eight justices granting the quo warranto division, while six others voted to deny the petition.

Associate Justice Noel Tijam penned the Court’s May 11 decision, as well as the resolution on Sereno’s motion for reconsideration.

The associate justices agreed with Justice Tijam that Sereno should be declared ineligible for the Chief Justice position were Teresita Leonardo-de  Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes and Alexander Gesmundo.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Mariano del Castillo, Marvic Leonen, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa voted to grant Sereno’s motion for reconsideration and for the reversal of the May 11 decision.

In its May 11 ruling, the Court held that Sereno should have been disqualified for the Chief Justice  post for engaging in private practice of profession while in government service; for representing that after her resignation from the University of the Philippines in 2006, she was engaged, full time, in private practice although documents would show that she was engaged as counsel by the government in the arbitration proceedings against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc., builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport  Terminal 3; for stating in her Personal  Data  Sheet that she was deputy commissioner  of the Commission on Human Rights, only to be later claimed that it was only a functional title; and for committing tax fraud when she failed to truthfully declare her income.

Aside from ordering Sereno to vacate her post, the SC also initiated an administrative case against her for alleged violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Code of Judicial Conduct “for transgressing the sub judice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court.”

In her motion for reconsideration, Sereno maintained that the Court has no jurisdiction to hear and resolve the quo warranto petition filed by Calida, which sought the nullification of her appointment as Chief Justice.

Being an impeachable officer, Sereno insisted that she can only be removed through impeachment proceedings by the Senate, acting as the impeachment court.

Sereno argued that the nullification of her appointment through the quo warranto petition is null and void, as it was rendered in violation of her right to due process to the refusal of her six colleagues to inhibit from the case.

Sought for comment on the denial of Sereno’s motion, her spokesman lawyer Jojo Lacanilao said they were no longer surprise with the Court’s decision.

“We were not surprised by the final result of the SC decision, but we remain convinced that the decision is unjust and will be questioned by the people for a long time to come,” Lacanilao said in a text message to reporters.

Good luck

Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque  Jr., for his part, said the Palace is aware that not everyone will agree with the SC decision to deny the motion for reconsideration filed by Sereno on her ouster.

“So like it or hate it, we have to succumb to the decision of the Supreme Court. That is now final and [an] executory decision. [Sereno’s] term as Chief Justice has ended. We wish her good luck in her everyday life as a private citizen,” Roque said.

He also noted that the President has yet to choose from the shortlist to be submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.  “We still have no idea who will be included in that shortlist to be submitted to the President and from which list he will choose the next Chief Justice of the Republic,” he said.

8 associate justices next

With the finality of the decision of the Supreme Court  in the quo warranto case dismissing and removing Sereno from office, a lawmaker on Tuesday said he will now proceed with the filing of impeachment complaints against the eight justices of the High Court.

Party-list Rep. Tom D. Villarin of Akbayan said the impeachment complaints will be filed against the eight justices of the SC who “have committed an impeachable offense in disqualifying Sereno’s appointment.”

“We will now proceed to filing the impeachment complaints and, hopefully, we’ll have it filed as soon as we finished compiling pertinent facts relevant to the individual charges against each of the eight justices,” Villarin said.

“It was a done deal sealed by Malacañang, which now exercises omnipotent powers over the Supreme Court, through the omnipresent quo warranto petition it can file against any SC justice and other impeachable officials,” he added.

With Bernadette D. Nicolas and Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz



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