MANILA, Philippines — Senators do not see a constitutional crisis arising from a Supreme Court (SC) ruling unseating Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice, which lawmakers warned weakened the powers of Congress to remove impeachable officials.
In separate interviews, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said it appeared that the House of Representatives would no longer insist on impeaching Sereno after the SC granted the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
MANILA, Philippines – Senators do not see a constitutional crisis arising from a Supreme Court (SC) ruling unseating Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice, which lawmakers warned weakened the powers of Congress to remove impeachable officials.
They said if the House would not transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, there is no need for the chamber to convene as an impeachment court to try Sereno for her alleged violations of the law and the Constitution.
“We will only have a constitutional crisis if the House says Sereno’s ouster was not valid and the House thinks Sereno remains seated so they will transmit the articles of impeachment, and when that reaches us, we will say ‘the House is right, that’s why we will conduct a trial,’” Pimentel told dwIZ.
He said the next move of the House would be crucial as he downplayed concerns of possible unrest owing to the historic SC decision.
“The decision is controversial but since we are in a democracy, we can speak out,” Pimentel said, adding the credibility of the high court will depend on the soundness of the arguments in the ruling.
He said the ruling could also prompt the constitutional commission to propose amendments to the Charter to strengthen the impeachment process or speed up the removal of erring impeachable officials.
Drilon expressed doubts there would be a constitutional crisis, noting Sereno is not expected to insist to remain as chief justice, even as he reiterated his warning that the decision violated the Constitution.
He said the Senate could not compel the House to transmit the articles of impeachment for Congress to assert its impeachment powers.
Drilon said some senators might file a resolution to protest the move of the SC, but such may not go far due to the separation of powers and independence of the three branches of government.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the quo warranto was a complicated and unprecedented legal issue, considering Sereno was removed from office not through impeachment which is what the Constitution mandates.
“The legal question before us therefore is what plenary powers if any does the Senate as an impeachment court have over the acts of both the executive and judicial branches, meaning the solicitor general and the Supreme Court, that have encroached on its exclusive power to remove the Chief Justice,” Pangilinan said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Sen. Joel Villanueva said the chamber could not press the House to proceed in impeaching Sereno.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Friday said the chamber will likely not transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.