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.

 

Sen. de Lima’s deafening silence

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Leila de Lima

President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Leila de Lima

After saying a mouthful of criticism against President Rodrogo Duterte’s recent bold public disclosure of government officials linked to drugs, which included among others members of the judiciary, there now seems to be a deafening silence coming from Sen. Leila de Lima.

Why?

I don’t want to think that just because Duterte has already apologized to Supreme Court(SC) CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno, the lady senator, who was a former justice secretary, will not be making a follow through of her negative assessment of Duterte’s pronouncement that agitated her no end.

Note that de Lima’s adverse reaction towards Duterte came also after Sereno questioned Duterte’s seeming interference with the judiciary when the latter ordered the named judges to report to the mother units, which in this case is the SC.

Sereno’s remarks did not sit well with Duterte causing the latter to censure the former and with the veiled threat of declaring martial law if she won’t stop interfering with his executive function. Duterte realize later his mistake and apologized to Sereno for the harsh criticism, which the latter readily accepted.

But that is neither here nor there for what I am writing is about de Lima’s grudge, utter contempt and personal crusade against Duterte seeming inhumanity.

This latest ‘name and shame’ issue appears to have given de Lima additional ground to once again be on the warpath against Duterte.

Or so she thinks she has.

De Lima attacked Duterte’s list as being inaccurate or that it needed a thorough validation and revalidation, and even insinuated that that the latter took advantage of naming a dead person, saying, “A deceased person naturally cannot defend himself.”

But of course all of these imputations were ably clarified by Duterte and much, much more.

In the course of this controversy Duterte announced in no uncertain terms that he was going to divulge and destroy a lady government official one of these days.

“She is a government official. One day soon I will. Bitiwan ko ’yan (I will drop her) in public and I will have to destroy her in public.”

Asked for clues, Duterte said, “That is the riddle there, hintay lang kayo (you just wait).”

Could this be the reason for the deafening silence?

Pardon me, but just asking.

Competent judge needed to fill up Sandiganbayan vacancy

graft courtPresident Benigno Aquino (PNoy) is being criticized by members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) and even by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for not appointing a new Sandiganbayan justice within the 90-day period despite the shortlist submitted already to Malacañang by JBC.

The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen and vet nominees for vacant posts in the judiciary and the Offices of the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman. In this case, the vacancy was triggered in 2013 by the promotion to Sandiganbayan presiding justice of Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.

This has become a controversial issue now more so that the plunder and graft charges against the three senators and their co-accused in the PDAF scam has already been raffled in the Sandiganbayan and the anti-graft court still lacks an associate justice.

It looks like, to this day, Malacañang is still scrutinizing whether or not each of the shortlisted candidates fall under the category of a competent associate justice, if and when he/she gets selected and made to handle or be part of a team that will handle the controversial PDAF scam case.

To be competent is not just about intelligence, qualification or expertise, but it is also about being your own person, being independent and having the strong moral fiber to execute decisions with utmost decency and probity.

This is, perhaps, the reason why it is taking long for Malacañang to fill up the vacancy because it wants the JBC to reevaluate their shortlisted candidates in as far as their connections are concern with those implicated in the PDAF scam.

While this may seem unfair to the shortlisted candidates, PNoy probably just wants to make sure that friendship, association, reciprocity and pressure will not influence in any manner, shape and form the judgment/decision of the Sandiganbayan justice.

A Malacañang spokesperson issued the following statements: “Our objective is to find the right people for the most vital and sensitive positions in the Judiciary. In light of information we received during our vetting process, we have requested the JBC to further review and evaluate the candidates for the vacancy in the Sandiganbayan.”

“Extra efforts to vet the individuals in the shortlist were necessary, given the importance of appointing competent, honest jurists to higher courts like the Sandiganbayan, our country’s anti-graft court.”

Included in the JBC shortlist were Judges Maryann Corpus Manalac and Andres Soriano of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC), Bernelito Fernandez of Quezon City RTC, Ronaldo Martin of Antipolo RTC, and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez Estoesta of Manila RTC, Justice Undersecretary Leah Tanodra Armamento, Department of Justice (DOJ) Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III, and Assistant Solicitor General Marissa Macaraig Guillen.

For a more distinct reason as to why Malacañang requested for the reevaluation of the shortlisted nominees by the JBC is because in 2012, and long before the P10-billion pork barrel scam erupted and implicated three senators including Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the latter is said to have written PNoy endorsing Quezon City RTC Judge Bernelito Fernandez for the position of a Sandiganbayan associate justice.

The same Fernandez is now included in the JBC list.

Perhaps Malacañang has found similar anomaly in all the nominees during their own intensive vetting process that puts the nominee’s competency in question.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is the JBC chairman, likened PNoy to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Perhaps she is correct, but Arroyo did it for the wrong reason while Aquino is doing it for the right reason.