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Disregard for the law

by Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The 8-6 result of the Quo Warranto petition against Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno was unexpected and it shocked the public.
It came as an all-time low for the Supreme Court (SC) to allegedly twist the rule of law and manipulate it in favor of a petition against its very own leader. Many people supposedly still find it hard to believe that such a travesty occurred in our country’s history.

Sereno’s fate was placed in the hands of five justices who had earlier accused and testified against her at the House of Representatives. Instead of inhibiting from making a vote, they clearly made use of their number in their plan to unseat the SC chief. They should have inhibited or recused themselves from hearing the case if there was even a hint of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.

More shocking was the fact that this was all accomplished by justices in an open disregard for the Constitution which clearly states that “The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment”.

The question now in the minds of our people is how can our respectable justices validate a decision that was publicly perceived to be illegal from the very beginning?

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The SC reportedly found that Sereno violated the Constitution by failing to file all the necessary statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) when she applied for the position of chief justice (CJ) and lied before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

If this was the case, the JBC should have dealt with matter there and then by not clearing her as a nominee for the position. When Sereno was appointed CJ, the only legal way to remove her from her post was through impeachment.

When the SC learned that Sereno failed to file her SALNs and if it truly believed that what she did was an impeachable offense, it should have allowed Congress to go through the process of impeachment.

Congress is tasked by the Constitution the sensitive job of removing impeachable officials. For its part, the Senate acts as the impeachment court. However, the Quo Warranto case was intentionally filed to avoid all these. The SC’s action robbed Congress and the Senate of their legal functions and rendered them useless.

If the SC can do this to Sereno, what does the future hold for Juan dela Cruz?

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/

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