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'SC ruling on Sereno ouster bolstered impeachment raps'.

The Supreme Court (SC) decision to oust Ma. Lourdes Sereno as chief justice only bolstered the evidence that the House of Representatives has for the impeachment complaint against Sereno, a key House official said yesterday.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali, chair of the House committee on justice that deliberated on the impeachment complaint, cited both the majority and dissenting opinions of the justices on the allegation there was 'culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution.'

'Even Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, who voted against the quo warranto petition, believes there was substance in one of our articles of impeachment. And he wrote in his dissenting opinion that it was a culpable violation of the Constitution,' Umali said.

In the decision approved by a majority of eight justices, the SC held that Sereno's appointment as the 24th chief justice was null and void because she did not meet the requirement of integrity for such post.

The majority found Sereno's failure to file her complete statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) while teaching law at the University of the Philippines and when she applied for the post of chief justice as a violation of the Constitution and the Code of Judicial Conduct, and a clear indication of lack of integrity and dishonesty.

The Court also ruled that the SC has the power to remove Sereno through quo warranto despite her being an impeachable officer and that the case could be resolved independently from the impeachment case before Congress.

Lastly, the Court explained that the one-year prescription period for quo warranto cases is not applicable to the case against Sereno, which was filed by the solicitor general over five years after she was appointed.

The 153-page ruling was penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam with Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo concurring.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas has called Filipinos to pray for the country. He cited the dissenting opinions of former chief justice Hilario Davide and other respected legal luminaries against the SC decision to grant the quo warranto petition ousting Sereno.

'They said that if such would be the decision, it would pave the way for the crumbling of what we stand for,' Villegas said.

Umali has reminded his fellow lawyers that the SC is the interpreter and final arbiter of all questions of law and they should respect the verdict.

'The incumbent SC justices are mandated by the Constitution to interpret laws and the Constitution, not the deans of the schools of law, not the former justices,' Umali said in Filipino.

'It is very clear in the Constitution that impeachable officers 'may be removed by impeachment.' In the law, the use of 'may' means there are other ways to remove impeachable officers from office. And the quo warranto petition is the mode of removing a disqualified official.'

'And that (granting a quo warranto petition) is the power vested in the Supreme Court and not in Congress. Not in the House and not in the Senate. That is within the mandate of the SC that we just have to respect,' he added.

Reversal unlikely

Two sources also told the The STAR that the SC is unlikely to reconsider its ruling.

'It did not expressly prohibit the filing of an appeal, but the effect of the decision could be read as such,' explained one of the insiders privy to the ruling who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak for the SC.

The source cited the dispositive portion of the ruling approved by a majority of eight justices, which stated that it was 'immediately executory without need of further action from the Court.'

Another insider agreed with this opinion, saying Sereno may opt to file a motion for reconsideration but it would anyway be denied or even ignored by the high court.

'The ruling is immediately enforceable. It states that there's no need for further action from the Court and that includes action on an appeal,' the second source stressed.

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 issuance of the ruling. It is only finality of the decision and upon express pronouncement by the Court that an appeal would be prohibited.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Date:May 15, 2018
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