“It primarily affects the entire nation as the Supreme Court literally sprawled the red carpet for dictatorial rule. The present dispensation has practically crippled all the democratic institutions that supposedly ensure checks and balances within the government.”
MANILA — Progressive groups called the removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno as “deplorable, contemptuous and a contortion of the Constitution.”
Voting 8-6, the SC en banc favored the Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition, voiding the appointment of Sereno.
In a decision penned by Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam, the SC said Sereno “is found disqualified from and hereby adjudged guilty of exercising the office of the Chief Justice. Accordingly, Sereno is ousted and excluded therefrom.”
Calida filed the quo warranto petition against Sereno, alleging that the chief justice failed to comply with the requirements set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) during her application to the post, specifically, her failure to submit her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Sereno’s supporters argued that the submission of an applicant’s SALNs is not absolute requirement since it is not mentioned in the 1987 Constitution as qualification for a member of the Supreme Court.
The Constitution provides that there are special class of government officials that can only be removed through impeachment. “This special class of public officials – comprising of the President, Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman – may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust,” the Constitution states.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said that the decision granting the quo warranto petition does not affect the Chief Justice alone. “It primarily affects the entire nation as the Supreme Court literally sprawled the red carpet for dictatorial rule. The present dispensation has practically crippled all the democratic institutions that supposedly ensure checks and balances within the government.”
For Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the removal of Sereno is “another act of tyranny that only empowers the Executive, while further undermining whatever is left of the separation of powers of the three co-equal branches of government.”
“What was really on trial here were all three branches of government. The Executive maneuvered to remove the Chief Justice and consolidate its control over all the branches. The Legislative embarked on a fishing expedition via impeachment hearings to destroy the reputation of the Chief Justice. The Supreme Court exposed itself as a willing tool in undermining judicial independence because they had an ax to grind against the Chief Justice,” Bayan said in a statement.
Other justices who voted to grant the petition were Associate Justices Teresita L. De Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, Noel G. Tijam, Andres B. Reyes, Jr., and Alexander G. Gesmundo.
Meanwhile, those who dissented were Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Mariano C. Del Castillo, Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Marvic F. Leonen, and Alfredo S. Caguioa.
The SC declared the position of the Chief Justice vacant and ordered the Judicial Bar Council to begin the application and nomination process.
The NUPL called on lawyers “to step up the protests against the breakdown of the so-called rule of law and the erosion of judicial independence in all legitimate forms and fora possible.”