The Supreme Court of the Philippines ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from the high tribunal

By Nelson Flores, Ll.B., MSCK

Former SC CJ Maria Lourdes PA Sereno. Image © http://bworldonline.com

THE Philippine Supreme Court in an unprecedented and historic move on Friday ousted its own chief justice, Maria Lourdes PA Sereno, after it granted the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

In an en banc decision, eight Supreme Court Justices – Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Samuel Martires, Francis Jardeleza, Andres Reyes Jr. Alexander Gesmundo, and Noel Tijam – voted to oust Sereno while six other members of the bar – Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Marvic Leonen, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano Del Castillo, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa – dissented.

The first lady chief justice of the country initially officiated the opening of the en banc session but later inhibited herself once the en banc started deliberating on Calida’s quo warranto petition which questions her appointment as chief justice. (Read More: http://beyonddeadlines.com/2018/05/07/sereno-calls-on-fellow-justices-to-protect-the-constitution-by-rejecting-the-quo-warranto-petition/)

Under Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, a quo warranto is “an action by the government against individuals for the usurpation of a public office, position or franchise may be commenced by a verified petition brought in the name of the Republic of the Philippines against: (a) A person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise; (b) A public officer who does or suffers an act which, by the provision of law, constitutes a ground for the forfeiture of his office; or (c) An association which acts as a corporation within the Philippines without being legally incorporated or without lawful authority so to act.”

Calida argued that Sereno is unlawfully holding the Chief Justice post because she failed to submit a complete statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN), which was among the requirements set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

The dispositive portion of the decision read: “Wherefore, the petition for quo warranto is granted. Respondent Maria Lourdes PA. Sereno is now disqualified from and is hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the Chief Justice. According, respondent Maria Lourdes PA. Sereno, is ousted and excluded therefrom. The position of the Chief Justice is declared vacant and the Judicial and Bar Council is directed to commenced the nomination and application process. This decision is immediately executory.”

Sereno is also ordered by the high tribunal to show cause within ten days “why she should not be sanctioned for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct for transgressing the sub judice rule and for casting aspertions and ill motive to the members of the Supreme Court...”

According to SC Spokesperson Theodore Te, the decision was written by Associate Justice Noel Tijam.

The high tribunal’s decision is not surprising as a number of those who voted for Sereno’s ouster earlier testified and made known their negative sentiments against her before the House of Representatives’ impeachment proceedings.

Sereno is expected to file a motion for reconsideration. 

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