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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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.