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A double whammy

Santa Banana, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is truly facing a double whammy!

First, the impeachment case against her will almost certainly be elevated to the Senate for trial. This is a foregone conclusion.

Second, there is an unprecedented quo warranto proceeding filed by no less that Solicitor General Jose Calida, who says Sereno is neither fit nor qualified to be chief justice. This is why the Supreme Court should, by law, oust her as chief justice.

The Supreme Court has deemed the issue justiciable, and it can now rule on the case. It can either dismiss it, or oust Sereno for not being fit or qualified to be primus inter pares, or the first among equals in the High Court.

These are two different cases. The first is provided for under Section 2, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution. Impeachable officials may be removed from office for culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.

Meanwhile, the quo warranto case springs from the findings of the Judicial and Bar Council that Sereno failed to submit her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth for many years while serving in government, including her time at the UP College of Law. She also has tax deficiencies which the Bureau of Internal Revenue deems as tax evasion. Finally, there is her psychiatric evaluation where she was considered unfit for the top post in the judiciary.

I don’t know how the Supreme Court will rule on the quo warranto petition. But since her impeachment case is pending, the Court may opt to wait how it will play out.

Remember the case of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona. He was convicted and ousted for not including in his SALN his dollar and peso accounts. If he met his fate because of this, how much more Sereno, who failed to submit the complete set of SALN altogether?

This is why I said there is no other way for Sereno but to resign. She is already damaged goods. Even if she returns to her job, she would already be ineffective. She has also divided the Supreme Court and the judiciary as a whole.

If the Senate conducts a trial, she will likely be torn to pieces. The process will be political.

If we must blame anybody for what is happening to Sereno, it must be former President Benigno Aquino III who plucked her from nowhere to be chief justice, making her bypass many others her senior.

I distinctly recall what Sereno said after becoming chief justice. She pointed to God as her benefactor. What blasphemy!

Nonetheless, the time of reckoning is at hand. I say, if Sereno is not ousted by her colleagues at the Supreme Court, she will definitely by convicted by the Senate after a very public trial.

Sereno’s lawyers must realize that court employees who wore red shirts on Monday showed the true sentiment of those who are aware of the workings of the Supreme Court. They supported the 13 justices who called on Sereno to go on indefinite leave.

Whether the Senate convicts her, or the Supreme Court acts on the quo warranto proceeding by ousting her, things definitely do not look good for the Chief Justice.

I covered the Supreme Court for a while when I was with the Philippines Herald. You would know where the justices stood just by talking to their employees. Many justices take their lunch at the cafeteria, and the court employees hear them talk about pending cases.

* * *

Over in Boracay, the problem is not whether to close it during the summer months but to close the establishments that violate the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Solid Waste Management Law.

I think the issue can be easily resolved. Sure, it might mean loss of revenue, but it’s for good cause.

Still, the closure of Boracay will enable the local government to restore it to its former glory.

* * *

I consider it strange that after President Duterte announced a possible joint exploration of the Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea, Beijing has not made a similar announcement on the “co-ownership” model. It seems China is not as enthusiastic as President Duterte is.

The President’s pitch is in fact not only dangerous but unlawful. The Reed or any other shoal in the West Philippine Sea is part of our Exclusive Economic Zone.

Does the President realize that he may have just ceded to China what is part of our EEZ?

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and a UP professor, Jay Batongbacal, an expert on maritime affairs, both oppose the ill-considered statement on co-ownership.

What was Mr. Duterte thinking? A sitting administration cannot just give away part of our territory!

Think, Mr. President. You could be violating the Constitution!

Topics: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno
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