MANILA, Philippines — Ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will appeal the Supreme Court ruling that granted the quo warranto petition filed by the solicitor general which invalidated her appointment to the top judicial post in 2012, one of her spokespersons said yesterday. Lawyer Josa Deinla said while the ousted chief justice will abide by the order of the court for her to immediately vacate the post, their camp will file a motion for reconsideration on the landmark ruling that sets a precedent for ouster of appointed officials who are impeachable.
“Up to the end, the chief justice is hoping that they (justices) will do what is right. She wants to avail of her last recourses, that is by filing a motion for reconsideration,” Deinla said in an interview.
Ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will appeal the Supreme Court ruling that granted the quo warranto petition filed by the solicitor general which invalidated her appointment to the top judicial post in 2012, one of her spokespersons said yesterday. by Rhodina Villanueva,Edu Punay
She bared that Sereno remains hopeful, especially since the High Court decided on the quo warranto case by a close vote of 8-6 or just a margin of two votes.
If Sereno’s appeal is allowed and one of the eight justices in the majority vote reconsiders and changes position, the ruling would be reversed in her favor.
“We’re outraged by this decision, but this was a very close vote. There is hope,” Deinla stressed.
Under the Rules of Court, an aggrieved party may file an appeal within 15 days from the decision of the court.
But observers think a reversal of the decision on Sereno’s case may be far-fetched since the SC specifically stated that the ruling was immediately executory and that it no longer saw the need for further action.
Still, there is no express prohibition for Sereno to file an appeal and the SC will just tackle and rule on the case again in another session without her as chief justice.
A group of rights defenders said the SC’s removal of Sereno constitutes an assault on human rights protections and democratic rule.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) even referred to the ouster as “unprecedented and nefarious.”
The group also said Sereno’s ouster was about much more.
“Last month, President Duterte declared Sereno an ‘enemy’ and called for her impeachment for her criticism of his murderous ‘war on drugs’ and other abusive policies,” HRW said.
Sereno, 57, is just the latest in a growing list of institutions and individuals – including Philippine media outlets and United Nations officials – who have been vilified by Duterte for seeking accountability for human rights violations, HRW noted.
Carlos Conde, HRW Asia Division researcher, recalled Duterte had sought to quash any meaningful inquiries into alleged crimes committed by police and their agents in the “drug war” that has killed thousands – a campaign the President has openly endorsed.
“Sereno’s ouster also kicks open the door for wanton removals of members of other constitutional bodies, such as the Commission on Human Rights.
Ultimately, the rejection ofconstitutional checks and balances concentrates power in the hands of Duterte and his allies, posing the greatest danger to democracy in the Philippines since the Marcos dictatorship,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said Sereno may not have gotten the majority but scored an important political victory Friday by uniting various groups in resisting tyranny and attacks on judicial independence.
“Her campaign raised public awareness on checks and balance in government and the threat of dictatorship. She exposed the Duterte ruling clique as the main movers and beneficiaries of her removal from office,” Reyes said.
He said Sereno hopes to highlight injustice nationwide, shining a spotlight on the poor and vulnerable.
The 153-page ruling was penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam with Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo concurring.
The six dissenters were Senior Associate Justice Senior Associate Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Bernabe, Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.
In a nutshell, the SC held that Sereno’s appointment as the 24th chief justice was null and void because she did not meet the requirement of integrity for such post.
The majority found Sereno’s failure to file her complete statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) while teaching law at the University of the Philippines and when she applied for the chief justice post as a clear indication of lack of integrity and dishonesty.
The court ruled that the SC has the power to remove Sereno through quo warranto despite her being an impeachable officer and that the case could be resolved independently through impeachment.
“Aside from the difference in their origin and nature, quo warranto and impeachment may proceed independently of each other as these remedies are distinct as to jurisdiction, grounds, applicable rules pertaining to initiation, filing and dismissal, and limitations,” it stressed.
The court said the one-year prescription period for quo warranto cases is not applicable to the case against Sereno because interests of the public is involved.
Apart from Sereno’s ouster, the SC also issued a show cause order requiring her to explain why she should not be penalized for supposedly violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and Code of Judicial Conduct “for transgressing the sub judice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court.”
This means she is now facing administrative charges before the SC as a lawyer and not as a member of the court, which could result in her disbarment.