DAVIDE: 8 ANTI-SERENO JUSTICES IMPEACHABLE
The former Chief Justice says removing the country’s top judge outside the impeachment process is a culpable violation of the Constitution. The House opposition plans to seek the ouster of the eight magistrates.
@Team_Inquirer Retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. on Thursday said the eight Supreme Court justices who voted to grant the quo warranto petition brought by the government’s top lawyer to invalidate the 2012 appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno may face impeachment.
The Constitution provides that the Chief Justice may be removed from office through impeachment in Congress, but Associate Justices Noel Tijam, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta and Francis Jardeleza voted on May 11 to grant the quo warranto pe- tition brought by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
“The mere act of voting to oust the Chief Justice in gross and culpable violation of the Constitution will itself be a basis to charge them of an impeachable offense—culpable violation of the Constitution,” Davide told a forum on Charter change at Ateneo de Manila University.
Already, an opposition member of the House of Representatives, Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin, has announced plans to bring an impeachment complaint against the eight justices.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Villarin said the Supreme Court decision was “very unconstitutional” and a “usurp[ation of the] power of Congress” to impeach and try a constitutional official.
“I think the next proper and logical move is to file an im- peachment complaint against the eight justices for culpable violation of the Constitution,” Villarin said.
At Ateneo, Davide told the audience—composed of representatives from the religious sector and students—to consider another possible ground for bringing an impeachment complaint against the eight justices: not deciding cases assigned to them within the period prescribed by the Constitution.
That is culpable violation of the Constitution, Davide said.
Sereno was facing an impeachment bid in the House of Representatives when the Supreme Court sat in a special session on May 11 and deliberated on Calida’s petition, which sought Sereno’s ouster for not submitting all of her financial statements to the Judicial and Bar Council when she applied for the top job in the judiciary.
The eight justices voted to grant the petition. Six magistrates, including acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, voted against it.
Tijam, an appointee to the court by President Duterte, wrote the decision for the majority.
Carpio described the decision as a “violation of the Constitution.”
Davide said he saw a conspiracy in the bid to remove Sereno, the Philippines’ first female Chief Justice, from office.
“There was an impeachment and then there [was] a quo warranto and then there was a demand by many judges, especially from the Philippine Judges Association, for our Chief Justice to resign,” Davide said.
“I saw immediately a conspiracy [among] three groups. I consider the quo warranto [petition] as a preemptive move, believing probably [that] impeachment will not prosper,” he said, explaining that the charges against Sereno in the impeachment complaint were not impeachable offenses.
“Knowing that the Senate will vote against the impeachment and [will] therefore maintain the integrity of the position of the Chief [Justice], they thought of another move to preempt the impeachment... This time it’s quo warranto even if the quo warranto is not an authorized mode to remove the Chief Justice,” he said.
Davide maintained that the quo warranto petition was brought beyond the proscription period of one year.
“There was a demand for Sereno to leave. This is what I call a conspiracy by adhesion whether intentional or otherwise. You can see how the move is being done simply to remove somebody, simply because, as you said, she is a woman,” Davide said.
In the House, Villarin said he believed a bid to impeach the eight justices would gain bipartisan support.
“I believe that Congress, especially the House, would do its constitutional duty of protecting our Constitution and one of the constitutional duties is that Congress is the sole institution in which an impeachment complaint can be filed and heard,” he said.
“It is clearly stated in our Constitution that you can only remove a sitting justice through an impeachment proceeding,” he added.
The impeachment complaint will likely be filed before Congress breaks up for a seven-week recess on June 1, Villarin said.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said impeachment was “the only viable remedy to correct this mistake and save the integrity of the Supreme Court before the Filipino people.”