June 02, 2018 at 12:30 am
The proposition peddled by ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and her allies to the effect that the decision of the Supreme Court to unseat her is a “threat to judicial independence” is both imaginary and speculative.
Sereno is not the Supreme Court, and she is not the judiciary. Besides, it was the Supreme Court, not the President or Congress that ousted her. Moreover, trial court judges all over the country have been repeatedly urging her to resign since four months ago. Even the administrative personnel of the Supreme Court, the very institution Sereno heads, wanted her out, too. How then can Sereno’s ouster be considered a “threat to judicial independence?”
If there is any real threat to judicial independence, Sereno must be it. Almost single-handedly, Sereno succeeded in sowing trouble and disunity among the justices in an unprecedented scale. In Sereno’s numerous speaking engagements since Solicitor General Jose Calida filed his petition for quo warranto against her in the Supreme Court, Sereno repeatedly lambasted the Supreme Court, particularly the justices who testified against her before the justice committee of the House of Representatives. Her public tirades against her colleagues confirms, and the disdain trial court judges and employees of the judiciary have for her, makes Sereno the real threat to judicial independence.
Incidentally, Sereno is the only chief justice on record to be compelled by her colleagues to go on an indefinite leave of absence. She is also the second chief justice to be sued in her own court during her incumbency, and by a colleague at that.
It was during Sereno’s incumbency as chief justice when the jurisprudence on natural-born Philippine citizenship was mangled to accommodate the presidential bid of Grace Poe-Llamanzares. Sereno was also chief justice when the Supreme Court abandoned the Aguinaldo doctrine in the law governing public officers. That move diluted the definition of popular sovereignty.
Chief Justice Corona may have been rather unpopular to many during his time, but unlike Sereno, Corona at least enjoyed the support of the administrative personnel of Supreme Court.
Anyway, it has been about two weeks since the Supreme Court ordered the ouster of Sereno as chief justice, and yet, the so-called “crippling effect on the nation” predicted by Aquino III and his minions in the Senate has not materialized.
Trading at the stock market remains undisrupted. On May 11, the very day Sereno was ousted by the Supreme Court, trading at the stock market actually improved!
Even the demonstrations organized by students in Metropolitan Manila, the University of the Philippines in Diliman in particular, dissipated hours after Sereno’s ouster. No massive demonstrations took place anywhere after that. Even the left-leaning politicized priests and nuns of the Roman Catholic Church were not too keen on mobilizing any mass actions.
The lamentation of some senators to the effect that the decision of the Supreme Court diluted the impeachment power of both houses of Congress is groundless. As discussed in a previous essay under this column, that is a self-serving observation.
Since the Supreme Court is explicitly authorized by the Constitution to resolve petitions for quo warranto, how can the exercise by the Supreme Court of a power vested in it by the Constitution dilute a power of either house of Congress?
In fact, the senators should be happy that the Supreme Court spared them the trouble, inconvenience, and expense of conducting a protracted impeachment trial.
Actually, the senators were looking forward to Sereno’s impeachment trial. That trial would have generated a lot of free publicity for the senators, especially those eyeing reelection in 2019. Yes, some senators were willing to promote themselves in the impeachment trial, even if it means subjecting Sereno to public embarrassment.
The statement of the dissenting justice to the effect that “all appointees,” including those appointed by previous administrations, are “now open targets for the solicitor general” by way of quo warranto is a fallacy.
Like any petition filed in the Supreme Court, a petition for quo warranto filed by the solicitor general can either be granted or dismissed by the Supreme Court. In other words, it is the Supreme Court, and not the solicitor general, which decides the fate of the solicitor general’s petition for quo warranto. Where then is the imagined abuse of quo warranto by the solicitor general?
In fine, the decision of the Supreme Court ousting Sereno did not empower the solicitor general to use quo warranto as a means of harassing any and all appointees in the government because the final say on the fate of the petition is with the Supreme Court. Restated, the solicitor general cannot abuse a power he does not even exercise in the first place.
In addition, long before the Supreme Court voted to unseat Sereno, the remedy of quo warranto was already in the books. In fact, it is authorized by the rules promulgated by the Supreme Court. As mentioned earlier in this essay, it is a remedy available to the state to guard against void appointments.
Finally, the remarks made by Leni Robredo, the purported vice president of the country, should not be taken seriously. Like Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Robredo does not understand Constitutional Law.
Robredo’s claim that she will be the next to be removed from office is not a sympathetic statement for Sereno, but a concealed attempt on her part to generate public support and sympathy, should the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, unseat her as vice president.
As the supposed vice president of the country, Robredo has done nothing of consequence. All she has so far done is to get herself into the good graces of the figureheads of the political opposition and to encourage them to find fault in President Rodrigo Duterte.
A recent television news report suggests that Robredo is still enjoying her stay at her opulent vice presidential mansion in New Manila, Quezon City at the expense of taxpayers.