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SolGen presses for Sereno ouster

Files quo warranto bid to nullify her appointment

THE Office of the Solicitor General on Monday asked the Supreme Court to void the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in 2012 for failing to comply with the eligibility requirements for the position are two entirely different proceedings with entirely different grounds for filing. These two proceedings run on different tracks-- the impeachment proceeding being under Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution with unwritten assumption here is that the officer was eligible and that the assumption of office was valid,” he said.

Besides, Calida said he is actually doing Sereno a favor by filing the case before the Supreme Court.

“The OSG will not allow you to undergo the indignity that the late Chief Justice Renato Corona suffered at the hands of politicians who unjustly convicted him. You do not deserve that. I don’t expect you to appreciate this but believe me, this is an act of kindness to a fellow lawyer,” he said.

RED MONDAY. Employees of the Supreme Court in Manila wear red—shirts, neckties—during the flag raising ceremony to, according to some observers, show their dismay over the perceived irregularities committed by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the symbolic flag ceremony coming as it did after an unprecedented united public stance of 13 justices who reached a consensus Sereno must go on an indefinite leave while supporters (below) carry placards appealing for justice. Norman Cruz
A supporter of Sereno,  Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, however, said seven justices who have shown hostility toward Sereno should recuse themselves from the quo warranto case.

He did not name the justices, however.

In the House, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said an 11-man prosecution panel for Sereno’s impeachment trial was almost complete. 

Alvarez, who is expected to manage the prosecution for the impeachment trial at the Senate, said members of the team would be formally elected by the chamber before Congress adjourns.

“From forty names, it [the list] is now significantly reduced to less than 15,” Alvarez said. 

He said the following are likely to be elected as members of the prosecution panel: Deputy Speaker and South Cotabato Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez, Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin, Compostella Valley Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga, ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera, 1-Ang Edukasyon party-list Rep. Salvador Belaro, SAGIP party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon and Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House justice committee earlier said House majority leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas will also be elected to the prosecution panel.

Umali said he will be the lead prosecutor.

Oaminal, Leachon and Veloso, a former associate justice of the Court of Appeals, are all vice-chairmen of the House Committee on Justice and are assured of slots in the prosecution panel.

Tugna and Agabas were being considered for being part of the 11-man House prosecution panel during the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Deputy speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia is reportedly being groomed to be the spokesperson of the House prosecution panel.

Similarly, House senior deputy majority Leader and Pampanga Rep. Rimpy Bondoc, who is reportedly eyeing Fariñas’s post in the next Congress, is also being tapped to serve as the prosecution’s spokesman.

This developed as Umali said the House will approve the committee report on the Sereno impeachment trial with the Articles of Impeachment before Congress goes on break.

“I will comply by next next week. I will submit this to plenary,” Umali said as his committee is expected to decide Thursday on the probable cause of the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

He said Sereno will be given the due process as she will be required to comment on the complaint.

At the flag ceremony at the Supreme Court Monday, dozens of court employees wore red to show their support for 13 associate justices who urged Sereno to go on leave. Nearby, Sereno supporters outside the gates of the Supreme Court jeered and waved placards in support of the chief justice. With Vito Barcelo

Sereno supporters also announced a march at the Batasang Pambansa comples in Quezon City on March 6. The Coalition for Justice said the march would be the first in a series of mass actions in support of Sereno.

In the Palace, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said the justice system is more “healthy and alive” without Sereno, who went on indefinite leave to prepare her defense.

In a press briefing in Malacanang Monday, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the institution will continue to function normally even without Sereno because the Court acts as a collegial body.

“Her continued stay in office may not be good for the institution,” Roque said.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has been named acting chief justice while Sereno is on leave.

Roque had earlier called on Sereno to resign to spare the institution from further damage.

When asked if this would affect the perception of the justice system in the Philippines, Roque said no, and said her absence proves that the justice system works.

“When 13 of the magistrates themselves vote that the chief justice should go on an indefinite leave that means the justice system is well and healthy and alive in the Philippines,” he said.

Carpio on Monday assured the public that the Supreme Court is functioning normally.

Carpio made the assurance as he explained that Sereno’s indefinite leave was the consensus of the full Court, including Sereno, on how to insulate the tribunal from political moves while there are impeachment proceedings against her.

“There was discussion on how best to preserve the integrity of the Supreme Court, how to insulate the Supreme Court from the trial, from all these political moves. At the end of the day, there was an agreement that she will go on leave, with her consent and agreement,” Carpio told the ANC news channel. 

Asked to comment on Sereno’s failure to meet the 10-year SALN requirement for the chief justice post as basis of the quo warranto petition, Carpio recalled that he also applied for the same post in 2012.

“We were required by JBC to submit SALNs. We also signed bank waivers that JBC can look into our bank accounts,” he said.

The Court is set to tackle the quo warranto case filed by the Office Of The Solicitor General in session today.

Umali said the quo warranto petition had no legal bearing on the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Sereno.

Umali said “impeachment presupposes a valid appointment while quo warranto questions the qualifications of an officer and that is well within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.”

He said the issue of qualification is not covered by impeachment.  “It is within the rules of JBC and it forms part of the law of the land,” Umali said.

Umali said the impeachment proceeding conducted at the House were conducted on the assumption that the appointment of Sereno was valid.

“There is a presumption that such appointment is valid unless annulled,” Umali said. With Vito Barcelo

Topics: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno , Office of the Solicitor General
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