The leadership of the House of Representatives said on Tuesday that the lower chamber will wait for the Supreme Court (SC) to rule on the removal petition against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno before voting on the Articles of Impeachment.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas Sr. of Ilocos Norte said “there will be no plenary voting [before our Lenten break on March 21], but we will approve it at committee level.”
“This is my view as chairman of the Committee on Rules, if I find that there is a serious challenge on the legitimacy of the officer in question, I would wait for the ruling. This will be of utmost importance by the Supreme Court, that will be resolved in a month’s time, I don’t think that’s too long,” he added.
The House Committee on Justice is set to vote on Thursday to determine the existence of probable cause to impeach Sereno.
Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said the House may opt to await the SC ruling before the plenary decides whether or not to send the impeachment case to the Senate for trial.
He added there is also nothing wrong if the justice committee is preparing the articles of impeachment even before the actual voting to speed up the process.
Alvarez added he is leaving it to Fariñas to map out the proper course of action for the House.
If the case reaches the Senate for trial, Alvarez said he would leave the task of prosecuting Sereno to other more qualified lawmakers. Instead, Alvarez said he would rather stay in the sidelines to watch the proceedings.
Alvarez, meanwhile, said the filing of a petition for quo warranto by the Solicitor General before the SC to question the validity of the appointment of Sereno is a proper course of action.
Alvarez, however, said the ongoing impeachment process and the quo warranto petition are two separate causes of action that can proceed independently of each other.
“That’s a proper course of action, quo warranto, because there are two separate causes of action. The impeachment process is exclusive to Congress, but it presupposes a valid appointment. Now, what quo warranto questions is the validity of the appointment itself. So, quo warranto is proper because that power is exclusive to the judicial branch of government,” he said.
Alvarez allayed concerns that the quo warranto proceedings lodged against Sereno would set a dangerous precedent and open the floodgates of similar suits to seek the ouster of impeachable officials.
“No, it wouldn’t because what is the subject of quo warranto here is the validity of the appointment. If the appointee has complied with all the requirements then he could never be the subject of a quo warranto proceeding,” he added.
Likewise, Alvarez dismissed the contention of Sereno’s camp that her appointment as Chief Justice is valid because it complied with the basic constitutional requirements and that the submission of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth is just a supplementary requirement imposed by the Judicial and Bar Council.
Article XI, Section 17, of the Constitution provides: “A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth.”
“As a lawyer, I think there is good basis for the quo warranto petition,” he said.
Alvarez also dismissed the call for the inhibition in the quo warranto case of the SC justices who demanded that Sereno take an indefinite leave.