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8-6 on the Constitution

I have never expressed a position on whether Meilou should be ousted or not. I have my personal view but I have kept it personal.

But I have always asserted that quo warranto is a proper action and that asking the Supreme Court to desist from deciding the case was tantamount to calling on the Court to renege on its bounden duty.

The Court has spoken. It is not infallible but it is supreme and therefore its decision articulates the state of the law. The academic disputation shouldcontinue but the controversy has been resolved.

As for quo warranto against impeachable officials, those against it should, for the sake of consistency, have protested the PET Rules promulgated years ago that provide for quo warranto against the President and the Vice-President.

Actually it was by only one vote that the Chief Justice lost her seat. Had one justice voted against the grant of the writ, the vote would have stood at 7– 7, a tie, and that would have meant a dismissal of the petition!

What should be clear is that conspiracy theorists do not have the numbers to back conjecture. True, that Court could have come across more convincingly by voting with greater unanimity to grant the petition for quo warranto, but that would also have provided fodder for the wags who have peddled the canard of a well-orchestrated plot to unseat Serreno. At 8–6 it can be said that she came very close to holding on, and that her colleagues were not of one mind about unseating her.

Significantly, however, nine justices agreed that she had violated the Constitution insofar as the SALN issue was concerned, but for Senior Associate Justice Tony Carpio, that meant that she should be turned over to the Senate for trial. Obviously, for the eight, the infirmity went to the very legality of her appointment—hence the negative answer to the question: “By what warrant (quo warranto) do you hold the office of Chief Justice?”

Even before the verdict was laid down, however, it should become clear that holding on to the position of Chief Justice was becoming increasingly untenable for Serreno. There were of course about 200 supporters surrounding the Supreme Court on the eve of decision day—but what judges and court personnel throughout the country and even within the Supreme Court itself harbored but were reticent many times about expressing was quite another. When employees of the Court over which you preside festoon its fence with red ribbons and wear red shirts to tell you to go, and when your colleagues, in an unprecedented move, volunteer to testify against you, then it surely is not a Tess de Castro versus Meilou Sereno spat. It is a matter of lost love and ruined trust. It had long ceased to be a matter of innocence or guilt. It had become a question of inability to lead a key institution of government.

But the Judicial and Bar Council must carry its share of blame. If the Court found the Chief Justice ineligible for appointment, that can only mean that the JBC was remiss in its duty of seeing to the endorsement of only the eligible. This point must not be lost in the coming days for the JBC members who sat in judgment over the candidates at that time must themselves be called to task for negligently if not knowingly endorsing one who did not meet the requirements.

I have been asked about the future of the judiciary. My answer has been unchanging: the judiciary will survive and flourish. It has seen crises like these, even worse in the past. There was a time that the entire Supreme Court resigned over a Bar-related scandal. That rocked the Court but did not destroy it.

Maria Lourdes Sereno is not the judiciary. She is not even the Supreme Court, and the judiciary is greater than a quo warranto case against the Chief Justice that results in her ouster!

Topics: Supreme Court , Judicial and Bar Council , Tony Carpio , Maria Lourdes Sereno , Quo warranto
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