Senators, mandated by the Constitution to sit as impeachment court judges when the House of Representatives votes to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno, are not keen on picking a fight with Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, who filed a quo warranto petition asking the Supreme Court (SC) to oust Sereno.
Effectively bypassing Congress, Calida justified his quo warranto filing at the SC, claiming, “I don’t want her [Sereno] to suffer the ignominy of what the late [Chief Justice Renato] Corona suffered at the hands of politicians who judged him unfairly.”
Asked if Calida’s remark, besides damning the past crop of senator-judges in the Corona impeachment case, also prejudged the ability of today’s senators to give Sereno a fair trial, Sen. Francis G. Escudero brushed it off as an ignorant remark, for lack of knowledge.
“He [Calida] should be forgiven for not knowing what he is saying,” Escudero said in a text message to BusinessMirror.
Sen. Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva also begged off from responding to Calida’s comment, saying: “It is very difficult to say anything at this time considering that the articles of impeachment is still with the House of Representatives.”
Villanueva added they cannot assume that the articles of impeachment against Sereno will be transmitted to the Senate.
“If it happens, I will be acting as a member of the jury, and we have to be impartial with everything the impeachment court will tackle,” he said.
Moreover, Villanueva told the BusinessMirror that, “right now, we can only prepare and study the procedures, precedents, including that of the previous Corona impeachment and make sure we will be ready to scrutinize the articles of impeachment, the facts and the arguments of both sides.”
Still, Villanueva assured that he will “perform my constitutional duty according to the dictates of reason, the law and my conscience.”
Under the Senate Impeachment Rules, at least two-thirds of the 24 senators, or 16 of the 23 incumbent senators, are needed to convict an impeachable official, like Sereno.
Former Sen. Rene Saguisag, recalling the lessons of past impeachment cases, however, found “no parity” with the impeachment and conviction of Corona in 1992, save that Corona was “rendered jobless” because of the law Saguisag had coauthored and sponsored, referring to Republic Act 6713 on mandatory filing of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, or SALNs.
“By giving today an alleged violator a chance to correct and comply, under that law, which is not heeded, he may get away with a fine not exceeding P5,000, not an offense rising to an impeachable level. The case of Corona is distinguishable, in my view, when the people, through the House and Senate, nullified the egregious appointment via impeachment and conviction,” Saguisag said.