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SC orders SolGen to comment on Sereno plea vs. quo warranto

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) to comment on the motion for reconsideration filed by ousted Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno seeking to to reverse its May 11 decision to grant the quo warranto petition which nullified her appointment as chief magistrate.

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive after the resumption of the SC en banc from its month long recess.

“In the matter of G.R. No. 237428 (Republic of the Philippines represented by Solicitor General Jose Calida v. Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno) the Court directed the Solicitor General comment on respondent’s ad cautelam motion for reconsideration within a non-extendible period of five days from notice,” Te said as he read the Court resolution.

After the submission of the OSG’s comment, the Court is expected to rule on Sereno’s motion for reconsideration also within this month, upon the return of its ponente, Associate Justice Noel Tijam who is currently on leave. Meanwhile, lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno's spokespersons, said that they are encouraged that the justices have given themselves more time to appreciate the new arguments, facts and matters that make the reconsideration of the May 11 decision compelling.

“Unless reconsidered, that Decision will wreak havoc on the basic premise of judicial decisions, which is fair play in an impartial tribunal, consistency with judicial precedents and as important, the preservation of the constitutional checks and balance,” Lacanilao said in a statement.

He said the constitutional design requires respect for the Senate's exclusive power to remove impeachable officials and for the stability of the tenure of public officials by the ban on quo warranto after one year has set in.

“Judicial independence requires respect for the impeachment process to ensure independence even of justices from each other. Accusers, especially if there is rivalry for a post, cannot be at the same time judges of the person sought to be removed,” he noted.

“The country calls on the Justices to set aside personal animosity and rule only according to what is right,” he added.

In seeking the reversal of the Court’s ruling, Sereno argued that the nullification of her appointment through the quo warranto petition is null and void as it was rendered in violation of her right to due process.

“The independence of the judiciary turns on this Court’s adherence to this rule. The proverbial path to perdition which the majority of this Court has taken that is paved mainly with the intention of removing the Chief Justice by any means, can lead only to the destruction of judicial independence and the separation of powers,” read the 205-page motion for reconsideration last May 30.

“That is a consequence, unintended as it may be, that the Respondent earnestly asks this Court to veer away from,” she added.

Sereno said the six magistrates in the majority should recuse from the case. Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Lucas Bersamin and Samuel Martires should have not joined in the deliberation of the quo warranto petition for showing bias against her, Sereno said.

“This is essentially a plea to the Honorable Court to do what is right and just. And the right and just thing to do, as dictated by the respondent’s fundamental right to due process is to disqualify the six Honorable Justices, who had lost the impartiality to hear and decide this case,” Sereno said.

She said the disqualification of the six magistrates is mandatory on the ground of actual bias based on their pronouncements made against her before the House of Representatives during its hearing on the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

Sereno said an impartial tribunal is an “indispensable prerequisite of due process," reiterating that a Chief Justice can only be removed via impeachment proceedings as stated in the Constitution.

Voting 8-6, the SC granted the quo warranto petition to remove Sereno from office on the basis of a supposedly invalid appointment in 2012.

In its decision, the SC majority ruled that Sereno’s failure to submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) as law professor at the University of the Philippines would mean “her integrity was not established at the time of her application,” making her ineligible to hold her position.

However, Sereno said the majority violated her constitutional right to due process when it ignored evidence that she had filed her UP SALNs.

Apart from Sereno's ouster, the SC also issued a show cause order requiring her to explain why she should not be penalized for supposedly violating Code of Professional Responsibility and Code of Judicial Conduct "for transgressing the sub juice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court."

Last May 25, lawyer Josalee Deinla, another spokesperson of Sereno, said they had asked the SC to give them 15 more days, or until June 9, to respond to the show causeorder.

Christopher Lloyd Caliwan / PNA