SC: No constitutional crisis despite CJ ouster without impeachment trial

By Inquirer.net May 12,2018

The Supreme Court dismissed warnings that a constitutional crisis could arise if it would allow the removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno without an impeachment trial.

In its 153-page decision that disqualified Sereno from holding the top magistrate position, the SC said there could not be a constitutional crisis considering that Constitution itself had given them the authority to resolve quo warranto cases.

“The Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over an action for quo warranto falls within the ambit of its judicial power to settle justiciable issues or actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable,” the high court said.

Resolving quo warranto cases is among the powers of the Supreme Court stated under Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.

A quo warranto petition, once granted, allows the removal of an unqualified official from his or her post.

Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the quo warranto petition against Sereno for her failure to submit a complete copy of her statement of assets,

liabilities and net worth (SALN) when she applied for the chief justice post in 2012.

The SC said an outright dismissal of the petition would be “a clear abdication of their duty.”

“The easiest way to lose power is to abdicate it,” the SC said.

But Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Saturday said Sereno’s ouster could trigger a constitutional crisis.

A crisis, according to Pimentel, will happen if the House of Representatives would invalidate the removal of the Supreme Court (SC) on Sereno.

“Bakit ko sinabi na magkaka-crisis tayo? Kasi sa mata ng Supreme Court, tanggal na si Chief Justice eh, [pero kung] sa mata ng Kongreso, hindi pa tanggal si Chief Justice, then we have a problem. Kasi ano talagang status niya? Tanggal o hindi tanggal?” Pimentel said in an interview with dwIZ.
(Why did I say we will have a crisis? Because for the Supreme Court, the chief justice has been removed but if Congress will not deem her removal from office, then we have a problem. What is the status then? Has she been ousted or not?).

Pimentel said a constitutional crisis can only avoided if Congress will decide that there will be a need to go an impeachment proceedings and accept the SC’s decision to remove Sereno from office.

Sereno was ousted by the SC on Friday after eight justices approved the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida — the principal lawyer of the government.

However, Sereno’s supporters and some senators said that the quo warranto petition should be junked saying only an impeachment court can oust a chief justice. Pimentel, nevertheless, said that the Senate nor any branch of the government could not dictate the House of Representatives on the fate of Sereno.

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