Philippines chief justice gets 10 days to reply on why she should not be removed from post
Manila: The Supreme Court asked Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to respond in 10 days to the complaint of Solicitor General Jose Calida that her appointment should be voided because she allegedly lacked integrity and seemed to have committed offences unbecoming of her post.
It was in response to the “quo warranto” petition of the Office of the Solicitor General on March 5, which criticised Sereno as unbecoming of a chief justice as shown by her impending impeachment trial at the Senate for mis-declaration of wealth, court rules’ violation, and other offences, said Theodore Te, spokesperson of the Supreme Court.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen did not agree with the High Court’s resolution, and he wanted the “quo warranto” filed against Sereno to be “dismissed outright,” said Te,
Explaining his petition at the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Calida said he wanted Sereno ousted from office because “she did not prove her integrity as an applicant for the position.”
In comparison, the impeachment complaint filed against her at the lower house of Congress in October 2017 “wants her removed as the sitting Chief Justice for impeachable offences,” Calida said, adding, “The impeachment complaint accuses her of committing culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust while in office.”
Meanwhile, the Apex Court also junked a petition filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano at the High Court on March 2, who sought to nullify Sereno’s appointment because of her failure to file all her statements of assets, liabilities, and networth (SALN) before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), a legal requirement to process her designation after she was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino in 2012. The JBC is an independent body that shortlists appointees to the regional trial and appellate courts, and the Supreme Court.
On March 1 Sereno took an indefinite leave following the consensus of all associate justices that the Apex Court must be insulated from her impending impeachment trial at the Senate, said Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the High Court’s acting chief justice.
In October 2017, lawyer Lorenzo Gadon filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno due to her alleged extravagant lifestyle, delayed release of benefits for spouses of deceased judges; disregard for the High Court’s collegial process; mis-declared statement of wealth; and over-payment of information technology consultant. At the time, Gadon did not include in his complaint about Sereno’s missing SALNs before the JBC.
Sereno has denied the charges. She never appeared before the House committee on justice even if her request to be represented by lawyers was rejected. She announced on February 27 that she would go on indefinite leave starting March 1 to prepare for a possible impeachment trial at the Senate.
A two-thirds vote from the plenary of the lower house of Congress is needed to impeach Sereno and elevate her case to the Senate, which will determine her guilt or innocent. If she is found guilty, she will have to vacate her post.
Sereno is the first woman and youngest lawyer ever appointed to the High Court. She is set to retire in 2030 at the age of 70.
She replaced former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was removed from office in May 2012, after his conviction in an impeachment trial at the Senate over mis-declared statement of wealth.