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.

Im­peach­ment planned

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.

Con­sti­tu­tional duty

“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.”

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