Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the resolution – signed by 14 senators from the majority and minority bloc last week – once approved could be used by Sereno if she decides to appeal the decision handed down by her colleagues.
Senate PRIB
More senators urged to sign quo warranto appeal
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged yesterday other senators to approve the resolution calling on the Supreme Court (SC) to review its decision ousting chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in a quo warranto case filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Drilon said the resolution – signed by 14 senators from the majority and minority bloc last week – once approved could be used by Sereno if she decides to appeal the decision handed down by her colleagues.

He said the Senate is not party to the case and the SC would not allow just anyone to intervene in an already decided case.

“It’s up to the leadership of the Senate if it wants the Senate to become an official intervenor. Be that as it may, the ball is in the hands of Chief Justice Sereno—what she wants to do with this (resolution),” Drilon told dzBB.

“Will she bring this (resolution) to the official attention of the Supreme Court by filing a manifestation saying this is the opinion of the Senate as an institution?” he said.

He said it is not yet certain whether the resolution would be calendared for deliberations in plenary as the majority bloc is still settling a possible leadership transition between Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

The Senate leadership decides on when a measure, such as a bill or resolution, is calendared for action.

Drilon reiterated the ruling made the solicitor general very powerful since he or she could initiate quo warranto proceedings against impeachable officials like the President, Vice President and officials of constitutional offices.

Sotto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson are not too keen on pushing for the resolution, saying the independence of the SC must be respected.

In his Twitter account, Lacson cited Article VIII Section 5 of the Constitution that vests the SC with the following powers: exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto and habeas corpus.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, who earlier disagreed with the SC ruling, saying the power to try and convict impeached officials lie with the Senate, did not sign the resolution.

“It’s enough that I spoke out but I don’t want to tell the SC how to perform its duties under the Constitution,” Ejercito said.

The resolution was filed by Sen. Francis Pangilinan. Among those who signed it were Pimentel, Drilon, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, and Senators Sonny Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Antonio Trillanes and Joel Villanueva.

The resolution expresses the sense of the Senate “to uphold the Constitution on the matter of removing a Chief Justice from office and respectfully urge the Supreme Court to review its decision to nullify the appointment of Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.”

Citing Article XI Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, the resolution states that members of the Supreme Court “may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution.”

The resolution pointed out the constitutional provision stating the House of Representatives has the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment and that the Senate has the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to grant the quo warranto petition sets a dangerous precedent that transgresses the exclusive powers of the legislative branch to initiate, try and decide all cases of impeachment,” the resolution read.

“A fundamental doctrine of a republican government is the separation of powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government; and while the doctrine does not guarantee absolute autonomy in the discharge of functions of each branch, the corollary doctrine of checks and balances ensures their co-equality,” it added.

Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, revealed that they are already preparing the motion for reconsideration (MR) on the SC ruling last May 11 that granted the quo warranto petition by the solicitor general and invalidated Sereno’s appointment to the top judicial post in 2012.

“Hope should not be lost indeed in this case – even with slim chance of winning the appeal,” he stressed.

Lacanilao said they would most likely file the appeal on May 30, the last day of the 15-day period to file the appeal as set under court rules.

Under the Rules of Court, a losing litigant in a case is allowed to appeal a decision by filing a motion for reconsideration within a period of 15 days from notice of the ruling. It is only finality of the decision and upon express pronouncement by the Court that an appeal would be prohibited.

Sereno’s camp officially received copies of the SC decision and the different concurring and dissenting opinions last May 15.

Asked what their target number of votes for the reversal considering the varying interpretations of the rule on the possible tie voting of justices in deciding on an appeal, the lawyer said they could only hope to get enough votes.

“There are different opinions on how many votes we need to get a reconsideration. We just hope to get enough to have the original decision reversed,” Lacanilao explained.

Section 7, Rule 56 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a tied vote in resolving an appeal before the Court would result in  dismissal of the MR.

The 14-man militant lawmakers in the 292-member House of Representatives yesterday vowed to make a decision soon if they would file an impeachment complaint against the eight SC justices who ousted Sereno. 

Party-list Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna, who heads the seven-man left-wing Makabayan bloc, and Tom Villarin of Akbayan said their group would decide before Congress adjourns session on June 1. 

Villarin, whose party-list group is allied with former president Benigno Aquino III who appointed Sereno chief justice in August 2012, said they are not afraid even if the impeachment will be shot down by the super majority coalition through “sheer number.” 

Allies of President Duterte in the House now number an estimated 250. 

Villarin likewise sees no problem with Sereno’s motion for reconsideration seeking a reversal of the SC ruling ousting her, since this is a move that can be “parallel” to an impeachment complaint that they will file and endorse at the administration-dominated House. 

He insisted that SC Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo should be impeached for usurping the exclusive impeachment powers of Congress.

If it succeeds, impeaching eight of the 14 remaining SC justices would lead to more appointees of President Duterte, as he would be forced name nine more to complete the tribunal along with the six remaining 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, Aquino wanted to impeach the 12 or so SC justices appointed by former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but succeeded only in booting out the late chief justice Renato Corona in May 2012. 

Aquino wanted the GMA-appointed justices impeached due to 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. 

The presidential elections were held in May 2010, and Corona was appointed early March. 

Corona was convicted by the senators not because of his “midnight appointment” but his misdeclaration of statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). 

Corona’s appointment was upheld by the SC not once but twice and yet he was impeached. 

Meanwhile, retired justice Antonio Nachura supported the SC ruling ousting Sereno from the top judicial post.

In an interview, the former magistrate said that the high court has the authority to determine the validity of an appointment via quo warranto proceedings.

He specifically cited Article VIII Section 5, which gives the SC the “exercise of original jurisdiction... over petitions for quo warranto.”

Nachura rebutted the dissenting opinion and argument of critics that the SC has no jurisdiction to remove Sereno because she was supposed to be an impeachable official.

He explained that the quo warranto case involved the validity of Sereno’s appointment or determination if her appointment in 2012 was valid or not.

He stressed that if a public officer is not ineligible for the position, impeachment would not apply becase there was no valid appointment in the first place.
Nachura also rebutted that claim of fellow retired SC justice Vicente Mendoza that quo warranto proceedings under Rule 66 of the Rules of Court can be filed only within a year upon assumption to office.

He said the Court had ruled in many cases that quo warranto can be filed within “one year upon the time of discovery.” – With Edu Punay, Delon Porcalla

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