Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A friendly guide to Sereno's ouster

Friday, May 11, 2018

Supreme Court ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Friday, May 11.

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MANILA, Philippines – In an unprecedented and historic move, the Supreme Court (SC) ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Friday, May 11.

Voting 8-6, the SC en banc granted the quo warranto petition to remove Sereno from office on the basis of an invalid appointment.

Sereno attended the en banc session where 8 justices voted for the quo warranto. The 6 dissenters, according to Court insiders, were as follows: Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, and Benjamin Caguioa.

9 of the justices said she violated requirements on the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

Details of the main decision are still being awaited as of posting.

The decision was expected from the en banc, whose members had made their negative sentiments towards Sereno known.

This is the first time that the SC removed its own chief, in a petition widely slammed for violating Sereno's constitutional right to an impeachment process.

What happens now?

Sereno will have a chance to file a motion for reconsideration.

During the appeal period, the focus shifts to the House of Representatives which is yet to vote on Sereno's impeachment. Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III has raised the possibility of the Upper House questioning the validity of the quo warranto ouster.

Constitutional Law professor Dan Gatmaytan said that the Senate can already assert its jurisdiction even without the articles of impeachment from the House. Gatmaytan said they can just invoke their constitutional mandate as an impeachment court.

If the Senate chooses to assert jurisdiction, it will result in a constitutional crisis, he said.

Gatmaytan likened the situation to the Marcos period when the Supreme Court was accused of enabling a dictatorship.

"When they started doing that, ignoring what the law says for a political outcome, it diminishes itself, and I think that's what the Court is walking into right now," Gatmaytan said. –

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Philippine bishops drum up support for chief justice - by Inday Espina-Varona

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Catholic and Protestant bishops in the Philippines have rallied church and civil society leaders to call on the Supreme Court to scrap a petition seeking to nullify the appointment of the country's chief justice.

The prelates said the Supreme Court has abandoned its judicial independence after it accepted a quo warranto petition filed by the government against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Sereno was facing impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, but members of the House refused to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. This forced President Rodrigo Duterte to come with an alternative way of removing Sereno.

A quo warranto is a special legal action to resolve a dispute over whether a person has the right to hold a public office that he or she occupies.

Sereno's supposed failure to submit a statement of assets and liabilities before she was named head of the judiciary in 2012 was cited as the reason for initiating quo warranto proceedings.

Duterte earlier declared himself Sereno's "enemy" and vowed to throw her out of the Supreme Court.

Sereno accused Duterte's administration of trying to orchestrate her ouster from the Supreme Court without having to resort to an impeachment trial.

She said the government is persecuting her for trying to protect the judiciary from Duterte who wanted to pursue a crackdown on alleged drug addicts, dealers, and their protectors without due process.

The chief justice called on Filipinos and leaders of Christian churches to assume "prophetic roles" in society.

The prelates and Duterte critics say an impeachment trial in Congress could embarrass Duterte if the allegations against Sereno are proved baseless.

The bishops, who formed a group called Coalition for Justice, allege that justices of the Supreme Court colluded with the Duterte administration to avert an impeachment trial.

In the Lower House, five Supreme Court justices earlier testified in impeachment proceedings against Sereno.

"The Supreme Court abandoned its chief mandate to ensure an independent judiciary by accepting a bankrupt quo warranto petition and refusing to inhibit five openly biased Justices," said a statement signed by 300 church leaders and representatives of major political groups.

The petitioners said the people "will not accept any decision tainted by gross injustice and justices who cannot act with justice."

"The state derives its power from the people. When the key instruments of the state conspire to subvert the constitution and democracy, the people must rise as the last bastion of our rights and freedoms," the statement added.

Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan said that by taking the quo warranto route in removing the chief justice, "the Supreme Court has effectively demolished the checks and balances system as well as judicial independence."

Among the coalition petition signatories were Catholic Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, and Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos.

Bishop Deogracias Iniguez of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Bishop Noel Pantoja of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, Father Rex Reyes Jr. of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Bishop Daniel Balais of the Intercessors for the Philippines, and Bishop Leo Alconga of the Philippines for Jesus Movement also signed the petition.

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