Sereno ousted

 

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Surprised?

Well, not really, if you ask me.

Ever since former president Benigno Aquino appointed Maria Lourdes Sereno as replacement for the ousted late Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court (SC) Renato Corona in 2012 for undeclared wealth, there was no denying that the writing on the wall was likewise ominous for her.

The fact that Sereno leapt over her more senior peers of associate justices was unfair enough, but it was even deemed more unthinkable that Sereno, then 52, was expected to stay in her post until reaching the mandatory retirement age in 2030. It is no secret that it is the dream of every associate justice who have aged and gone this far to head the SC one time or another before retiring.

Perhaps this is the reason why Sereno was joined by only five associate justices at her first flag-raising ceremony.  Local media viewed the absence of her eight other colleagues as a snub, and confirmation that she leads a divided court.

Divided court indeed, for at the crucial time when Sereno needed her associate justice’s support, eight (8) turned their back and left her to fall in disgrace.

This is what the writing on the wall was all about, so to speak. For one reason or for many reasons, for as long as it not only pleases the ears of those who dislike Sereno, but has found justifiable reason for her to be removed, then the mechanism for her ouster could immediately be initiated.

It all started last March when the House of Representatives’ justice committee voted on the impeachment complaint against CJ Sereno filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. During these times, Solicitor General Jose Calida also filed the quo warranto petition citing Sereno’s failure to submit the required statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth when she was applying for the Chief Justice position.

What happened is that the SC en banc granted the quo warranto petition that questioned the validity of Sereno’s appointment and, voting 8-6, ousted her.

The decision is expected to be immediately executory, pending the filing of a motion for reconsideration by Sereno.

Not a lawyer, I wanted to educate myself on what ‘quo warranto’ is all about and if it has all the legal basis in ousting an impeachable official like Sereno.

This is what I learned, and gladly sharing it with you, after I visited this site: https://oag.ca.gov/opinions/quo-warranto.

Quo warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies.

Quo warranto is used to test a person’s legal right to hold an office, not to evaluate the person’s performance in the office. For example, a quo warranto action may be brought to determine whether a public official satisfies a requirement that he or she resides in the district; or whether a public official is serving in two incompatible offices.

Quo warranto is not available to decide whether an official has committed misconduct in office. A person who commits misconduct in a public office may be penalized or even removed from office, but quo warranto is not the proper forum for those cases. Other processes are available for that purpose.

The term “quo warranto” (pronounced both kwoh wuh-rahn-toh, and kwoh wahr-un-toh) is Latin for “by what authority”—as in, “by what authority does this person hold this office?” The term “quo warranto” is still used today, even though the phrase no longer appears in the statutes.

Quo warranto originated in English common law as a process initiated by the crown to find out whether a person was legitimately exercising a privilege or office granted by the crown, or whether the person was instead intruding into a royal prerogative.

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Scandalous Jinggoy never learns

Former senator JinggoyEstrada

I am talking of course about former senator Jinggoy Estrada, who until today and after spending 3 years in detention for plunder and graft charges relative to the scandalous P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), seems to have never learned to change his old ways.

The reason why I am emphasizing his individuality and ethos is because Estrada, an actor and a failed senator, is contemplating again in running for senator, and to think that he is just out on bail momentarily.

As if the plunder and graft charges against him are not shameful and degrading to his persona, enough to put him at the higher pedestal of corrupt government officials, it, however, shows no negative effect on him as he continues to beguile Filipinos with impunity.

Take for instance Estrada’s application for a travel motion to go to the US from April 21 to May 31, 2018. Accordingly, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan granted the motion on March 26 since it is a simple travel motion that the court almost always grants for defendants.

The problem, however, is that the scheming Estrada, not contented with just the travel motion request to the US, flaunted it as having been invited to speak in Michigan on Philippine affairs, and it was upon the invitation of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG).

It was even reported that Estrada attached an invitation from William Dechavez, identified in the letter as USPGG president.

Apparently, this grandstanding by Estrada was debunked by no less than the incumbent USPGG president himself, Mr. Rodel Rodis, who issued a statement, saying: “I can confirm that there is no planned USPGG event on May 20 in Michigan. I communicated with Mr Wllie Dechavez, our USPGG Michigan chair, and he made no plans for this event as he is in the Philippines for a vacation and he has not been in touch with his members in Michigan.”

If this is not another reprehensible and dastardly act by Estrada, worthy of condemnation and boycott on his senatorial run again, I do not know what is.

Because of this fraudulent turn of events, the Ombudsman prosecutors told the Sandiganbayan: “With this information, the prosecution is constrained to pray that the Honorable Court hold in abeyance the issuance of the travel authority of accused Estrada since accused appears to have committed material misrepresentations in his motion, thus openly violating one of the terms and conditions of the court in allowing an accused to travel.

They added: “Allowing accused Estrada to travel to the United States with the consequence of making him beyond the reach of the Honorable Court, despite the falsity of the purported invitation letter, may constitute a travesty of justice.”

Jinggoy with President Duterte at the Palarong Pambansa 2018.opening.

Yet, unabashedly, Estrada continues his odious quest for a slot in the PDP-Laban senatorial slate for 2019 by working hard to be under the good graces of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Look how Estrada tries hard to ingratiate himself to the president by showing his slavish subservience – shaking the president’s hand and bowing so low.

End of the road for CJ Sereno

 

The way events are developing on the impeachment complaint and the quo warranto (Latin for “by what warrant or authority?”) petition against Supreme Court Chief Justice (SCCJ) Maria Lourdes Sereno, I could only surmise that she is nearing the end of her judicial career.

Well, at least Sereno has gone that far, high and mighty, which is the ultimate goal for all lawyers, but her reaching the zenith is what has brought her to her woes today.  Many have found it anomalous. She is facing impeachment for alleged betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the constitution, and corruption.

It is bad enough that the House committee on justice has already approved the articles of impeachment against Sereno before Congress took a break and which the House plenary is expected to vote on the committee report recommending Sereno’s impeachment when Congress resumes mid-May.

Since the House is dominated by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, it is now a certainty that the body will affirm the committee report such that Sereno will be deemed impeached.

The complaint will then be forwarded to the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, which has the power to convict or acquit impeachable officials.

But what is even making it worst for Sereno now is her explicit blaming of Duterte for the clamor to disqualify and oust her as head of the SC when, in one of her speeches recently, she asked Duterte to explain allegations that he was behind the impeachment complaints in the House of Representatives and the quo warranto case filed before the Supreme Court (SC) by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida.

“Mr. President, if you say that you have no hand in this, please explain why Solicitor General Calida, who reports to you, filed the quo warranto petition,” she said.

“Filipinos are smart. They understand. You do not need to spell out the truth for them. It cannot be denied that there is an unseen hand behind this,” she added.

Obviously, this did not sit well with Duterte, whom lawyer Larry Gadon cleared of any responsibility when he filed the impeachment complaints with the House of Representatives.

The more Duterte got piqued because all along he has denied all the allegations in connection with the impeachment complaints against Sereno.

In the same vein, Malacañang has always insisted that the president had no hand in the impeachment hearings and the quo warranto petition.

“I am putting you on notice that I am your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court. I will request Congress to do it, the impeachment right away…. Kindly fast-track the impeachment,” said the angry Duterte.

Calling Sereno “bad for the Philippines,” he said Congress should act swiftly or else he would.

Those are tough words that Sereno should reckon with.

But what chance does Sereno really have when even the five Associate Justices, whom she asked to recuse from the case for testifying against her before the justice committee of the House, are set to deny her plea that they not participate in the quo warranto case filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida?

Indeed, not only is Duterte putting Sereno at the end of the road, but the Associate Justices themselves, namely, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam, are pushing the CJ over the edge of the road.

 

Napoles now under the WPP

 

What is so special about accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles that she has now been admitted to the witness protection program (WPP)?

Being tagged as the brains behind the misuse of billions of pesos in pork barrel funds or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers based on a Commission on Audit (COA) investigation covering 2007 to 2010 simply means that she is the root of all evil behind the scam and yet the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opted to turn her into a government witness.

How ridiculous can the DOJ be, for crying out loud!

Just because Napoles’ safety and security are threatened, does that make it a good reason to make her the least guilty of them all, even making sure that her medical needs are met?

How humane and considerate can the DOJ be on Napoles, but how merciless and unsympathetic can the same agency be on the poor people whose dreams for a better life for them and their family have been shattered by the scheming and evil ways of Napoles.

And to think that Napoles made atrocious and perverse deals with the politicians and other government officials to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and needy Filipinos who were deprived of funds for their livelihood because those involved in the scam purposely misused their pork barrel for their own selfish interests.

How more ironic can it get when the poor victims of the scam continue to live miserable lives, yet the perpetrators of the scam are given special treatment.

Napoles is a principal accused in the criminal cases lodged by the Office of the Ombudsman against former senators Enrile, Revilla and Estrada.

All three cases are now on trial with witnesses being presented by government lawyers to prove their allegations that the lawmakers received kickback or commissions in exchange for funding host projects implemented by bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles.

Enrile and Estrada have been released on bail while Revilla remains detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Revilla is seeking the dismissal of his plunder and graft cases through a demurer to evidence, a move that seeks to have the charges junked halfway through the trial on grounds that the prosecution failed to prove its case.

Napoles is also facing a handful of other plunder, graft and malversation of public funds cases also for alleged involvement in the misuse of pork barrel funds by various former congressmen.

With these facts in hand, does Napoles really deserve to be admitted to the WPP?

Duterte fighting terrorism and corruption in two fronts

 

We all know the terrorism happening in Marawi City and to its beleaguered residents who have hastily fled to Iligan City, as this is what all sorts of media are talking about, including the blogs I posted which you can read at these links: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/yes-to-martial-law-in-mindanao/ and https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/yes-to-martial-law-in-mindanao-part-ii/.

While lawlessness is happening in southern Philippines, to the consternation of the people, especially the president, a sense of satisfaction, however, is felt by many Filipinos because at the opposite end of the country the Duterte administration is also going after corrupt government officials.

Former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, Sen. Leila de Lima, Sen. Franklin Drilon.

According to reports Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has announced that former budget secretary Florencio Abad and Senators Antonio Trillanes, Leila de Lima, and Franklin Drilon, will soon face plunder charges in connection to the scandalous Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or what is more known as the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

This, after the lawyer of the alleged brains behind the scam, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, said they will be filing charges before the (DOJ) against prominent personalities, among them the aforementioned politicians, which they said have benefited from the scam.

We all know that Napoles herself is facing plunder charges for allegedly masterminding the scam in which pork barrel allocations from lawmakers were funneled into the non-government organizations she set up to fund bogus or non-existent projects to the detriment of the poor who were suppose to be the beneficiaries of the funds.

Whether or not these are drum-up charges that are politically motivated remains to be seen.

In the same manner that former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla are calling their own plunder charges for their involvement in the same scam as harassment and persecution, the above mentioned politicians are also echoing the same sentiments.

But people are really hoping that something concrete comes out of this investigation especially now that Napoles feels like “singing” to escape a much longer jail term.

The people ought to know and the time has come to unmask the culprits.

I just hope that Justice Secretary Aguirre will be able to gather and produce enough evidences to justify the plunder charges especially now that the politician’s names have already been maligned.

 

Duterte warns judiciary on rampant TROs

President Rodrigo Duterte

“For Christ’s sake, do not play with TROs.”

Sounds like a reasonable plea addressed to the judiciary branch of government and coming from no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself, it is even more compelling as he knows whereof he speaks.

There could not have been a more opportune time than today for Duterte to call upon the Supreme Court to implement internal control mechanism in the judiciary such that wanton issuance of temporary restraining orders (TROs) are prevented especially when it has to do with government projects.

Duterte’s ambitious program of ‘Build, Build, Build’ epitomizes what “Dutertenomics” is all about.

Accordingly, it is a program and a strategy that will usher in the golden age of infrastructure in the Philippines by embarking on a nationwide network of high impact projects that will try to connect places and people, create jobs and bring down the cost of doing business through logistical support and other foundations.

It is short of saying that what Duterte has envisioned during his tenure as president is to see the   nationwide infrastructure network connecting the archipelago into one cohesive and dynamic whole Philippines.

Duterte’s mission and vision for the country is both timely and laudable as it complements the connectivity or linking of nations as initiated by China’s One Belt One Road and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity.

The Belt and Road Initiative of China’s President Xi Jinping is a grand plan to connect Asia with Europe and Africa in a monumental trade and infrastructure network. It is aimed at promoting prosperity for countries across the world.

China calls it a “modern Silk Road”, referring to what has also been called Silk Route, which was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean Sea.

Apart from free trade, the plan would provide opportunities for peace and inclusiveness. China says the scheme is open to all countries and aims to be a win-win for all.

With President Xi pledging US $124 billion for his new Silk Road plan, not to mention the financial aid the Duterte’s government has been receiving from China, there are indeed enough funds to envision and start projects that will help the country move forward.

Do we still have to question why Duterte is appealing that his administration’s projects should not be at the mercy of uncontrolled and corrupt TROs?

 

Duterte, ICC and the NYT

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

I don’t know but the timing by which the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the New York Times have issued their acrimonious/fault-finding statements against President Rodrigo Duterte, when the Philippines is hosting the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings, smacks of pure interference and arrogance.

There is no doubt that both the ICC and the NYT wants to generate negative feelings of dislike or distrust among the leaders of the member nations toward Duterte and his bloody war on drugs, alleged extrajudicial killings and even his unpredictable foreign policy, but all these will surely fall on deaf ears and come to naught.

The reason why I am saying this is because there is nothing but sheer respect and recognition for one another in their style of leadership and governance and meddling in the affairs of another state is definitely a no-no.

Thus, for entities like the ICC and the NYT to interfere in the affairs of the state is even worse because first and foremost they have to make sure that what they are saying or implying is factual.

Take the case of the NYT, for instance, where in its editorial, “Let the World Condemn Duterte”, it described the Philippine president as a “man to be stopped” and is urging the ICC to conduct a preliminary investigation on the spate of extrajudicial killings being linked to Duterte’s war on drugs.

There may be a “spate of extrajudicial killings” but how sure is the NYT and the ICC, for that matter, that the killings are state sanctioned? Because jailed Sen. Leila de Lima has been harping about it even as nothing materialized during the investigation she conducted against Duterte when she was still chair of the commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Justice Secretary?

Why has Duterte won overwhelmingly for president despite his alleged notorious past as mayor of Davao City, even when he did not have the political machinery?

Duterte won because many Filipinos looked up to him and believed in his promise to wage serious war against drugs, corruption and criminality.

What this means is that Filipinos were tired having ordinary and traditional politicians who had been ineffective running this country and who, in many ways than one, abetted in hindering the growth and development of the country.

What I am simply saying is that one has to live here and experience what it has been like for the country having one president after another for decades that did not have the political will and the spunk to make an impact in the lives of many poor Filipinos.

Fighting a war against people corrupted by drugs that include policemen, judges and other government officials masquerading as public servants is no easy task.

Duterte was not only able to unmask who the culprits are but has also discovered the enormity of the drug menace in the country and for this he continues to have the people’s trust and approval of his governance.

Other ASEAN leader recognizes the competency and authority of Duterte and has showed their high regard for his brand of leadership and this augurs well for the country’s future with him at the helm.

This is what matters most and not what the NYT, the ICC, and for that matter, the Amnesty International (AI), have been negatively blurting about against Duterte.