Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said that the ouster petition against Maria Lourdes Sereno should not have been given due course in the first place.
The STAR/File
Ouster petition vs Sereno a 'legal abomination,' says dissenting justice
Audrey Morallo ( - May 11, 2018 - 6:36pm

MANILA, Philippines —  A quo warranto petition that successfully ousted Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice of the Supreme Court is a “legal abomination” that should not have been given deliberation in the country’s constitutional democratic space, one of the justices who dissented from the high court’s decision said on Friday.

Justice Marvic Leonen said that the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida that questioned the legal hold of Sereno on her office should have been dismissed outright and not given due course.

“It does not deserve space in judicial deliberation within our constitutional democratic space,” Leonen said in his dissenting opinion.

“Even if the Chief Justice has failed our expectations, quo warranto, as a process to oust an impeachable officer and a sitting member of the Supreme Court, is a legal abomination,” the justice added.

The Supreme Court, voting 8-6, ousted the chief justice, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, in an unprecedented ruling that critics said was unconstitutional.

The ruling stemmed from the quo warranto petition filed by Calida which argued that Sereno’s appointment to the chief justice post was invalid because of her failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth as required by law of government workers.

Duterte urged his allies in Congress in April to remove Sereno after months of denial that he was behind moves to oust the chief justice.

Sereno has been critical of Duterte and stressed the need for the respect of law and human rights. She also clashed with Duterte after she contradicted the Philippine leader who implicated several judges in the country’s trade of illegal drugs.

The chief justice is also facing an impeachment case at the House of Representatives, also dominated by allies of the president.

Vice President Leni Robredo slammed the decision and stressed that the fight was not yet over.

Senators and congressmen, both from the majority and the opposition, have also expressed their disagreement with the decision and underscored that the power to remove impeachable officers rested only in Congress.

Leonen said that the petition gravely diminished judicial independence and threatened the ability of the Supreme Court to protect the fundamental rights of people.

“We render this Court subservient to an aggressive Solicitor General. We render those who present dissenting opinions unnecessarily vulnerable to powerful interests,” said Leonen, who assumed Sereno’s post as associate justice when she was appointed the country’s top judge.

Leonen said that the grant of jurisdiction for quo warranto actions to the Supreme Court under Article VIII, Section 5(1) of the Constitution should have been read in the context of the provisions of Article XI, Sections 2 and 3 as well as the principles of judicial independence and integrity implied in the other parts of the charter.

Article XI, Section 2 lists the officials, including the chief justice, that can be removed by impeachment while Section 3 emphasizes that only Congress has the power to oust these officers through impeachment.

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