Im­peach­ment sought vs 8 jus­tices in Sereno ouster

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By DELON POR­CALLA

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.

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