ONE of the framers of the 1986 Constitution said the Supreme Court went against the intention of the Charter in using a quo warranto petition to remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Lawyer Christian Monsod, who headed the committee that drafted the Constitutional provision on impeachment, also rejected the position of Solicitor General Jose Calida that the quo warranto can be used even a year after “the cause of such action” because “no time runs against the king.”
“That is the lowest kind of reasoning and a blatant exhibition of arrogance,” Monsod said in a television interview.
The majority decision that ousted Sereno from office claimed Article XI, Section 2 of the Constitution “does not foreclose a quo warranto action” against impeachable officers such as the chief magistrate.
But Monsod noted that the Charter made a distinction between impeachable officers and all other public officers and employees who “may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.”
He recalled the subsequent sentence of Section 2 was suggested by fellow commissioner Regalado Maambong.
“Commissioner Maambong justified that insertion by saying that the Constitution should be clear on who can be removed as provided by law and those that can only be removed by impeachment,” Monsod said.
“The removal by impeachment is supposed to be an extraordinary and more difficult way of removing these high officials,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the Senate cannot convene as an impeachment court not unless it receives the Articles of Impeachment from the House of Representatives.
“The Senate is passive. We are waiting for the filing of the so-called Articles of Impeachment. So for as long as there is no articles of impeachment filed in the Senate, the Senate can’t constitute itself as an impeachment court. It’s a passive institution as the impeachment is concern,” said Pimentel in an interview.
“If there’s no filing, we will continue to exist as a Senate, therefore we are talking as independent senators and maybe as an institution and not as impeachment court,” said Pimentel, adding that he had already issued a statement on the review of the SC decision.
Voting 8-6, Sereno’s colleagues ousted her as Chief Justice last Friday, granting the quo warranto petition filed against her by Calida.
Meanwhile, some 20 members of the group called “The Silent Majority” protested outside the Senate on Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to defend the Constitution by proceeding with Sereno’s impeachment trial.
“Defend, defend democracy! Quo Warranto, panloloko!” the protesters chanted.
Tess Bonganay, member of the Silent Majority, labeled the tribunal’s decision as “unconstitutional” and “illegal.”
The silent majority is under the umbrella of the The Coalition for Justice, which also urged the Senate to take a collective stand against the Supreme Court decision ousting Sereno by asserting its exclusive right to remove impeachable officials.
“We respectfully ask you to remind the Supreme Court that the Senate’s sole power over impeachable officers must not be impugned by a co-equal branch of government,” the CFJ said in an open letter to the senators.
“If the decision remains unchallenged and the Senate’s duty is unperformed, the dire fallout on our system and the people will like at the Senate’s door,” it warned.
The House of Representatives said it would dismiss the impeachment complaint filed against Sereno once the Supreme Court renders its final and executory decision on the quo warranto petition.
House majority leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said the House committee on rules which he chairs has excluded the Sereno impeachment from its agenda pending the high court’s final ruling.
“We have excluded it in the agenda [today] out of respect to a co-equal branch [the Supreme Court],” Fariñas said.
Fariñas said his committee will “hold in abeyance” action on the report of the House committee on justice which recommends to the plenary that the ouster complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon be sent to the Senate for trial.
Fariñas’ committee has until July 24 to refer the committee report to the plenary since it has 10 session days to do so.
The House under the 17th Congress has only nine session days before it adjourns sine die on June 1. It will open the third regular session on July 23.