Impeachment sought vs 8 justices in Sereno ouster
The eight SC justices who voted to oust Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice should be facing impeachment at the House of Representatives for culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution, Akbayan partylist group Rep. Tom Villarin said yesterday.
“The filing of an impeachment complaint against the eight justices is a logical thing to do now,” Villarin said, in protest of the high court’s granting of the quo warranto petition questioning Sereno’s August 2012 appointment.
Villarin insisted that Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo usurped the exclusive impeachment powers of Congress.
“This plot to file an impeachment complaint against the eight justices will gain ground in the next few days because I believe civil society groups, even lawyers’ groups, and those from the private sector will also support this move,” he told reporters who attended the Serye news forum.
If successful, impeaching eight of the 14 remaining justices will lead to more appointees of President Duterte, who may be forced to name nine more to complete the SC apart from the six justices who voted according to the will of civil society.
The high tribunal is composed of 15 justices, led by a co-equal chief justice.
Back in 2010, former president Benigno Aquino III wanted to impeach the 12 or so SC justices appointed by his predecessor, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but succeeded only in booting out the late chief justice Renato Corona in May 2012.
The main reason Aquino wanted the Arroyo-appointed justices impeached was anchored on the SC’s overwhelming decision that upheld Corona’s March 2010 appointment, which was also a violation of the 1987 Constitution that bars appointments two months prior to the polls.
Corona’s appointment was upheld by the SC not once, but twice and yet he was impeached.
Expectedly, Villarin was supported by his fellow militant lawyer, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, who gave assurance their seven-man Makabayan bloc will seriously study Villarin’s plan to file an impeachment complaint.
“We will seriously study the possibility of impeaching the eight justices of the SC. This is because they trampled upon Congress’ sole authority to hear cases of impeachment by granting the quo warranto decision,” he said.
Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe, however, provided a more sober and balanced legal viewpoint.
“It might be a bad law, it might be a bad decision, but we have to respect the rule of law. And the SC has spoken, that is the law,” the lawyer-legislator stressed.
“I maintain that only Congress has the right to remove impeachable officials. That’s my opinion as a lawyer,” he added.
Batocabe believes any impeachment against the justices will be an exercise in futility.
“I can assure you it will be dismissed by this Congress. Perhaps in the next Congress, yes. As a lawyer, let’s respect our democracy, we have to respect the rule of law even if others perceive it as wrong,” he explained.
Batocabe is president of the Party-List Coalition at the House of Representatives.