Only through impeachment

There are several legal issues against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to remove her from office. This is a sub judice case that prevents us from commenting on the legal aspects of the issues. The chief magistrate’s spokesman, Anacleto “Jojo” Lacanilao, however, raised points in her defense.

Lacanilao was empathic that the Constitution is specific that a sitting justice of the Supreme Court can only be removed through impeachments. No ifs and buts. Even Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, an official of the ruling PDP Laban Party, subscribes to this constitutional provision. So if the House justice committee under Rep. Reynaldo Umali thinks it has a solid case against CJ Sereno, then by all means it should forward the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Lacanilao pointed out that if indeed Sereno failed in her psychiatric test , then it is the fault of the Judicial and Bar Council for allowing her to assume the post of chief justice. He also maintains that Sereno’s or anyone else’s health record should not have been made public according to confidentiality law.

Thirteen associate justices, including acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, have made public that they are opposed to Sereno’s continuing in office. In a related move, Solicitor General Jose Calida urged the 13 justices to oust Sereno by disbarment for being unqualified for the post from the start. Calida said Sereno’s disbarment would “spare her from the indignities of questioning by the senators” in the Senate trial. But the Chief Justice has already been vilified in the House hearings which she did not attend. So what is the solicitor general talking about?

The Sereno camp is just as staunch in stating that her indefinite leave of absence is not a precursor to her eventual resignation. There is speculation that Sereno is weighing her options on whether to resign or fight her case. If convicted and impeached, Sereno stands to lose all her monetary benefits such as retirement pay. She will also be barred from holding any government office in the future. The primary purpose of impeachment is removal from office. Conviction does not mete out imprisonment. CJ Renato Corona who was convicted was not imprisoned. Nevertheless, he died a broken man after his fall from prestigious power.

Resignation carries a certain stigma to one’s reputation. Thus is probably what Sereno is deeply contemplating. Money isn’t after all that matters in this world. Impeachment is a political process and a numbers game. Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay) thinks there is no sufficient vote in the Senate to convict Sereno. The vote of 16 senators out of the present 21 composition is needed for a guilty verdict. Liberal Party Senators Franklin Drilon, Riza Hontiveros, Paulo “Bam” Aquino, Francis Pangilinan are expected to toe the LP party line. Include Magdalo Party-List Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and you have have five against conviction. An unknown independent-minded senator could cross party line and a “guilty” verdict will be short of one vote.

From all indications, we are going to see a Sereno impeachment trial which should last at least three months depending on how well the House prosecution panel presents its evidence and the chief magistrate’s defense team parries off the allegations. I have it on good authority who the prosecution’s lead counsel will be. But I have given my word not to name the legal eagle until the House prosecution announces it. A lot of people will be surprised once his name comes out.

Emil Jurado writes his memoirs

My neighbor in the Standard’s opinion page, Emil Jurado, is coming out with a book chronicling his nearly half a century in Philippine journalism. “The Road Never Ends” is the title of his autobiography. It is the pinnacle of Emil’s career and the professional path he took.

Emil started as a business reporter in the defunct Philippines Herald. He covered Philippine presidents from Carlos P. Garcia to Rodrigo Duterte, writing his insights on Malacañan Palace and passing them on to readers of his column.

Emil Jurado belongs to the pantheons of Philippine journalism together with legends as the late Doroy Valencia and Joe Guevara.


Topics: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno
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