MANILA – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is done crafting her comments, as directed by the Supreme Court en banc, to the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, seeking to declare void her 2012 appointment as chief magistrate for allegedly failing to meet basic qualifications for the post.
Sereno will submit her comments to the SC on Monday (March 19), the last day given by the en banc for such submission, according to Atty. Josa Deinla, one of the lawyers assisting the chief justice.
Except for Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the en banc had earlier voted to direct Sereno to file within 10 days her comments on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, without giving due merit to the petition.
Leonen said the en banc should dismiss the petition outright, because the Constitution clearly provides only for impeachment as the mode for removing a sitting chief magistrate.
“In our view, there’s nothing in the law or the Constitution that supports the quo warranto proceedings at the Supreme Court. That is a separate process, and under the Constitution, a sitting CJ may only be removed by impeachment,” Deinla said, speaking mostly in Filipino to reporters on Saturday.
In May 2012, Sereno’s predecessor, Renato Corona, was ousted following a 20-3 vote by senators who conducted a 5-month impeachment trial on charges that, among others, Corona had failed to file a truthful and complete statement of assets liabilities and net worth (SALN).
HOUSE URGED: DON’T WAIT FOR QUO WARRANTO
Meanwhile, the Sereno camp repeated its appeal to the House of Representatives Justice committee to transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate, where Sereno believes she can have her day in court.
The House of Representatives should not rely on or await the outcome of the SC deliberations on the Calida quo warranto petition, said the chief justice’s lawyers, who had described the petition as a signal her accusers are not confident they have a strong case if the complaint reaches the Senate for trial.
“We think it’s wrong for the House to just rely or wait for the outcome of the quo warranto petition. We appeal to them anew to transmit the complaint to the Senate, so we can all reckon with the truth…Should the CJ be acquitted or convicted,” Deinla said.
Deinla explained, meanwhile, that the psychological assessment on Sereno brought up in the House Justice panel’s hearings does not conclude whether a person is mentally fit or stable. The assessment ordered by the Judicial and Bar Council is simply meant as a character /personality assessment.
Deinla noted that there are 27 items in the complaint filed with the HOR by lawyer Larry Gadon. “None of the 27 items refers to the pslychological incapacity of the chief justice, and yet the issue [of her assessment by JBC] was heard by the Justice commitee,” Deinla pointed out.
She dashed the claim that Sereno is mentally unfit and at any rate, that is not an impeachable offfense under the Constitution. Deinla said the matter was just raised in the House hearings in order to demolish the chief justice’s reputation.
“It seems they want to support the SolGen’s petition for quo warranto, which also questions the CJ’s integrity. That is not listed among the impeachable offenses under our Constitution. If we look closely at what psychological assessment means, such does not state whether a person lack mental faculties or not. The JBC assessment is simply for character/personality assesment, and it is wrong to use this exercise for any other purpose,” Deinla said.