SolGen to SC: Affirm ouster of CJ Sereno

The Office of the Solicitor General has asked the Supreme Court to sustain its decision last month removing Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno from the top judicial post.

In a 75-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida sought the dismissal of the motion for reconsideration filed by Sereno for lack of merit.

The chief state lawyer said that Sereno’s appeal should be denied for her failure to raise any new argument that would warrant reversal of the high court’s ruling, which disqualified her from the chief justice post and invalidated her appointment in 2012.

Calida argued that the arguments raised by the ousted chief justice in her 205-page MR filed last May 30 were all rehashed of issues already resolved by the Court in its May 11 decision.

“These issues had been resolved by the Court in its decision dated May 11, 2018. The scholarly concurring and dissenting opinions of the members of the Court show that beyond doubt,” Calida said, referring to Sereno’s claims on lack of jurisdiction and authority of the high court to remove her, violation of the one-year prescription period on quo warranto cases and lack of evidence on her lack of proven integrity.

Calida described Sereno’s appeal as “pro forma” or a resurrection of issues previously raised by parties and were already resolved by the Court, which has “no other purpose than to delay or impede the smooth administration of justice.”

Calida, who filed the quo warranto petition last March, said the SC ruling was correct, contrary to the assertion of Sereno that she could only be removed through an impeachment process in Congress and that the SC overstepped its powers and violated the separation of powers as supported by the draft Senate resolution reportedly signed by 14 senators to support this position.

“A dispassionate look at the present impeachment provision, Section 2 of Article XI, shows that it does not preclude the removal of impeachable officers through a quo warranto proceeding. Both the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions used the words shall and only; on the other hand, the 1987 Constitution uses the word may to qualify the modes of removal of such impeachable officials. The use of the term “may” in the provision is contoured as permissive and operating to confer discretion. It cannot be construed as having a mandatory effect,” the Solicitor General said.

He insisted that the quo warranto proceedings is “separate and distinct from impeachment.”

Calida pointed out that the SC was correct in ruling that Sereno does not possess the eligibility of proven integrity to occupy the chief justice post through her failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth.

“The Honorable Court correctly ruled that compliance with the Constitutional and statutory requirement of filing of SALN intimately relates to a person’s integrity. The Honorable Court correctly found that respondent repeatedly failed to file her SALNs,” added the comment.

The Solicitor General also disputed Sereno’s claim that the Court violated her constitutional right to due process.

“The Court observed the right of the respondent to due process. Due process is satisfied when a person is notified of the charge against him and given an opportunity to explain or defend himself,” he said.

Calida also defended the refusal of the six justices accused by Sereno of biases—Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Samuel Martires—to inhibit from the case.

“There is no basis for the six members of the Court to voluntarily inhibit themselves. Mere imputation of bias and partiality is not enough. A voluntary inhibition must rest on arbitrary or prejudicial conduct,” he argued.

“Respondent’s claim that she was not heard by an impartial tribunal is therefore based merely on speculation and surmise. She has no clear and convincing evidence to show bias on the part of some members of the Court,” he said.

Lastly, Calida said the SC ruled correctly in exempting the government—particularly his office—from the one-year prescription period on quo warranto cases under Section 11, Rule 66 of the Rules of Court.

With the submission of the OSG’s comment, the high court is expected to now decide on Sereno’s appeal and decide on the case with finality.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio recently revealed that they intend to resolve the case within this month. An insider revealed that the justices have set their deliberations on Sereno’s appeal in their session on Tuesday next week, June 19. 

Topics: Office of the Solicitor General , Supreme Court , Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno , Solicitor General Jose Calida
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