Senate shelves resolution on Sereno

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Senate shelves resolution on Sereno
In his sponsorship speech, Pangilinan said the 1987 Constitution clearly states that members of the Supreme Court “may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution.”
Miguel de Guzman / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate failed to adopt and consequently temporarily shelved Resolution 738, which questions the Supreme Court (SC) decision to remove former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from office, due to lack of time as Congress adjourned sine die yesterday.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan sponsored the resolution “expressing the sense of the Senate to uphold the Constitution on the matter of removing a Chief Justice from office,” which was signed by 13 others. It was introduced after the Senate spent over 10 hours taking up the Bangsamoro Basic Law. 

In his sponsorship speech, Pangilinan said the 1987 Constitution clearly states that members of the Supreme Court “may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution.”

The Constitution also states that the House of Representatives has the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment while the Senate has the sole power to try and decide these cases.

“It is humbly submitted that 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,” Pangilinan said in his speech. 

“A fundamental doctrine of a republican government is the separation of powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. While this 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,” he added.

Apart from Pangilinan, Sens. Aquilino Pimentel III, Francis Escudero, Antonio Trillanes IV, Sonny Angara, Leila de Lima, Grace Poe, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Joel Villanueva, Loren Legarda, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto signed Resolution 738.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who interpellated Pangilinan, argued that the Senate has no business interpreting the provisions of the Constitution since this is a function of the Supreme Court and found the resolution to be disrespectful to the SC.

He also questioned the move of the Senate to raise the issue of Sereno’s impeachment when this has not yet even transpired because the House of Representatives did not transmit the articles of impeachment.

“I don’t want to participate in something that would encroach on the authority of the SC. If we didn’t use this language, referring to an action taken by the SC, I would sign the resolution. In this case we are creating a constitutional crisis because SC acted within its own jurisdiction (and) here we are, interfering and trying to influence the SC to reverse its decision,” Lacson explained.

He challenged Pangilinan to show a provision in the 1987, 1973 and 1935 Constitutions that says Congress can interpret the Constitution after the latter replied that removing Sereno via a quo warranto petition is unconstitutional.

Pimentel said the resolution could still be approved when Congress resumes session in July as he clarified that it was not meant to help the case of Sereno

“This is for the record, for the future so that there could be a discussion on the merits of the case because, under our system, decisions of the Supreme Court cannot be reviewed by any court or any other body. Hence, it should be reviewed by the people,” he added.

He said the records of the plenary discussion on the resolution could be used by the public to help form their opinion on the soundness of the arguments of the SC in removing Sereno.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said it respects Sereno’s move to call for the reversal of the May 11 SC decision.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. wished her “the best” in availing herself of the legal remedies she has under the law. 

He refused to dignify Sereno’s statement on the “continuing persecution of the Duterte administration,” saying the former SC chief should worry instead on whether or not her previous colleagues would uphold their ruling against her.  – With Christina Mendez, Edu Punay, Marvin Sy, Robertzon Ramirez

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