Sereno ouster is proof the rule of law is Supreme

It is a day for Filipinos to celebrate. Justice has been served to the people and to the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona. The Supreme Court of the Philippines voted to oust Lourdes Sereno from the Chief Justice post she had been occupying since 2012 on the basis of an invalid appointment due to her failure to file her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).

The high court’s decision has spared a country from having to go through another daunting and expensive impeachment trial similar to what it went through just a little over five years ago after Congress impeached Corona.

This is an historic event indeed and a triumph for all those who demand more transparency of their public servants. Sereno’s ouster highlighted the importance of public servants declaring their assets, liabilities and net worth. All Filipinos should consider this a win for the nation because those who want to run for higher posts in government will think twice about doing so lest they risk being removed from office like Sereno.

The Supreme Court judges proved today that they have the power to remove impeachable public servants through Quo Warranto. This should serve as a warning to aspiring Presidents and Vice Presidents, Supreme Court Judges and Ombudsmans who are currently in public service to keep everything in order especially the filing of their SALN.

While some justices disagreed on the Quo Warranto and its applicability to Sereno, most of them agreed that she violated the law when she failed to file years of SALNs. The justices who refused to write their comment on her missing SALNs seem scared of being criticised by their allies or are trying to avoid weakening their dissenting opinions. Because if they agreed that Sereno violated the law and is therefore not qualified to sit as Chief Justice, then their decision not to oust her would not be consistent.

Sereno’s supporters argue that since she is an impeachable official, she can only be removed through an impeachment trial – a process the House of Representatives are mandated to oversee. They added that Sereno’s removal through Quo Warranto was against the Constitution. But as the international law expert and Business Online columnist Jemy Gatdula explained

“Art. XI.2 of the constitution merely mentions one mode of removal, hence “may be removed from office, on impeachment”. Note the presence of “may” (in the 1935 and 1973 constitutions it was “shall”) but the absence of the word “only.” The language thereof doesn’t preclude other modes of removal.

Here is Article XI.2 in its entirety:

 Article XI.2: “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.”

Indeed, there was no “only”. This means a writ or legal action such as Quo Warranto requiring a person to show by what warrant an office or franchise is held, claimed, or exercised was applicable to Sereno.

If an impeachable official can only be removed through an impeachment process, then why is there a Vice President vote recount currently going on in response to former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s protest case filed in 2016? That’s because Robredo can be removed if proven she cheated in the election by the Supreme Court acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal. Removing Robredo through an election protest is just another process like Quo Warranto or another way to remove an impeachable official.

Supreme Court justices who voted to oust Sereno respected the rule of law.
The removal of Sereno is not about partisan politics anymore. This is not about Duterte and the Liberal Party. This issue is bigger than all the petty political bickering surrounding it. The integrity of the judiciary was at stake the longer she stayed as Chief Justice. Sereno violated the law. She simply could not hold a position in the SC – a position that should champion respecting and following the law.

Sereno’s supporters should be reminded that this fiasco is all former President BS Aquino’s fault. He set a precedent for removing a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court when he campaigned against Corona using the resources and muscle of his office. He then appointed the least qualified out of all the nominated replacements — someone who committed a worse offense than Corona — to replace his vacated post. Now they know how the public felt after Corona was ousted. It was even worse for him. The prosecution dragged his family through the mud, but they didn’t care. At least Sereno didn’t have to go through a humiliating trial. She should be thankful for the Quo Warranto petition. But if she had been a bit smarter throughout, she would have resigned instead.

Some senators allied with the Liberal Party are disappointed over the SC decision to oust Sereno. They still insist only the House of Representatives can decide if she should be ousted through an impeachment process. They are not making any sense as usual. Their motives are self-serving.  It’s already crystal clear she violated the law so what’s the point in going through an impeachment trial? Unless of course they plan to acquit her. Their disappointment has more to do with the lost opportunity to grandstand and save Sereno. They have no shame since most of them played a big role in ousting Corona using his SALN. Now they make it look like Sereno is being victimised by the Duterte government. Never mind that most of the Supreme Court employees wanted her out. That is a stark contrast to Corona who was respected by his colleagues and staff.

The senators now realise that the Supreme Court Justices have the power to remove impeachable officials too, not just them. Likewise, it proves the system of checks and balances is working. When the members of the Executive, the Judiciary and House of Representatives all have the power to remove each other, then it means they can police each other. That is good for the public.  

At the moment, Sereno supporters are staging a rally in protest of her ousting. That’s all they can do. Unfortunately, they have nowhere to go to, no one to seek solace in because the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of the law. Even if Sereno files a motion for consideration, the same justices will decide on the case. The best thing for Sereno and her supporters to do is to accept her fate and spare the public the drama they plan to subject them to. In an ideal world, whether she goes through an impeachment trial or Quo Warranto, if the presiding judges are objective, the results would be the same – her ousting. Truth be told, in an ideal world, Sereno would not have been appointed as Chief Justice at all to begin with.

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28 Comments on “Sereno ouster is proof the rule of law is Supreme”

    1. I presume that the laws of the land were respectable. And we are supposed to respect them, no matter what, where or when. Why make laws only to be disrespected?

    2. Now, the law is respectable, unlike in the previous administration, where they played with the law in their hands and succeeded with their unlawful deeds. it’s payback time…

  1. Sereno’s ouster is not a win for anyone. It is a shame and shows that once again corruption has won. Take your pick. Either: Sereno really is corrupt and her appointment was fraudulent and deceitful, the court is corrupt for using the extra-constutional quo warranto instead of impeachment to remove Sereno, Gadon is tool of a corrupt administration seeking to oust Sereno by any means necessary. One or all of those is true. In any case corruption has won the day. And these people think it’s all a game and that they have “won.”

    1. I find myself wondering what your definition of “corruption” might be.

      So the Supreme Court exercising its prerogative to final interpretation of the law is corrupt, and letting an unqualified person hold the office of Chief Justice is not? Go figure.

      All you spout here are tantrums with gratuitous use of words you barely, or maybe willfully, don’t understand. While the side you oppose has sound basis.

      At least you understand that it is about the people. Except that they did win. They have been shown that rule of law has a chance in this country. Saying that they only “think” they won is just baseless noise.

    2. You’re actually grasping on straws when you said quo warranto is extra-constitutional. It’s so hilarious. Article VIII, Section 5. Look at it.

    3. Prove that quo warranto is extra-constutional…though I won’t be holding my breath waiting for it since you’ll just slink away and hope no one is intelligent enough to spot your obvious lies.

    4. First thing mister Philippine Fails numbskull, are you an expert in Philippine law? Are you a lawyer and know every inch of everything there is in the Philippine constitution?

      It’s a shame really for Filipinos like you who remain to be stupid for so many years and insist in sticking to one side of learning instead of absorbing all information provided to you to formulate your understanding of what had just happened last Friday.

      Do you still deny the fact that Sereno did not supply her SALN documents at the time she assumed her position? The fact she didn’t that made her illegal and not fit to be in her position since then, thus she is not a real “SC official”. So no, impeachment is not for her but quo warranto (as what other thinking judges explained is the right tool to use).

      I want every numbskull yellow supporters out there to see this : your idiotness is over! Do not try to influence others with your stupdity! Cry now yellows… cry… cry… gnash your teeth! Disgusting yellows!

    5. Impeachmemt only applies to an impeachable official if his/her appointment is legal. Since her appointment is illegal, impeachment doesnt not suit her case. How could you impeach a Chief Justice that never become a Chief Justice? That is why the process that fits her is quo warranto, NOT impeachment.

  2. If I may ask… because I just truly wish to understand.

    Some people say that the quo warranto is unconstitutional, not because they think only impeachment can remove a chief justice, but mainly because of the “time limit” in terms of when a quo warranto can be raised (Rules of Court, Rule 66, Section 11). Said rule appears to state that quo warranto can only be raised within a year of appointment.

    For those who are familiar with this rule, how valid is this argument?

    Personally I believe Sereno should be ousted, but was the method of removal correct?

    1. It is correct. According to the Chief Legal Counsel, Atty. Sal Panelo, that one-year period starts right after the discovery of the violation and not at the start of appointment. That violation was only discovered during the impeachment hearing in the lower house. So it is just right because, in the case of Sereno, it was discovered only after almost five years.

      Is it acceptable to you, that she continue to sit on the highest position in the judiciary for the next 12 years despite being unqualified? She is also not an impeachable official since her appointment is invalid from the start. That’s what even a bar topnotcher and now Senate president cannot understand and kept on insisting that CJ Sereno can only be removed by impeachment.

      And finally, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter and final interpreter of the law. Whatever they decide upon would be the law, nobody can argue.

      1. Ohhh, okay, I got it now. I guess there is a confusion because of how that section was worded. Thanks!

        Concerning if I want her to remain at her position as the chief justice, no, I definitely don’t. And I personally think she has a lot more skeletons hiding in her closet. But I want to make sure that the method of her removal is absolutely correct and within the constitution. Partly because I want to make sure there’s no loopholes when I argue with others about this, and partly also because I want to be absolutely sure that my belief is right. We can’t, after all, correct a wrong with another wrong, because that would just make us hypocrites.

        Thanks again!

    2. If anything, Sereno should be thankful that she was removed little or no extra humiliation like what happened to Corona. Personally I wouldn’t mind her getting the same treatment, but at least she’s gone from an office that she should have never sat upon.

    3. According to what i learned:

      (1) it is valid one year from the date of discovery
      (2) if it is the state that filed the lawsuit, there is no time frame or expiry.

  3. And suddenly, most pinoys have become lawyers and political analysts overnight.

    Makes me wonder why we call it the supreme court, if we really are better than them to interpret our laws.

    1. Issues like these are somehow good and helpful to us. In our desire to join the discussions, we suddenly had the urge to read and try to understand the Philippine Constitution, in which at least the average Filipino have no interest before. Suddenly, we became constitutionalists, lawyers and political analysts. It just good that even a highschool graduate like me can actually participate in such discussions.

    2. Expressing an opinion on the issue is accorded to people by the Constitution. Criticizing someone for having an opinion is obnoxious.

      1. @Theresa Alvarez;

        Being a blogger; you have to take the good and the bad. I don’t mean having a thick skin. Some bloggers are really obnoxious. I”ll take them; other than someone who sends viruses and malwares to my computer, because, they didn’t like what I had written in the blog.

  4. The Qou Warranto petition, finally ousted the bitch, Lourdes Sereno, from her position. She was placed there in the Supreme Court to protect the Hacienda Luisita of the Aquino Cojuangco family. She was placed there, by Pnoy Aquino., to promote/protect the political interests of the Aquino Cojuangco political axis.

    They can just cheat elections, manipulate the electoral process, subvert the choice and the will of the Filipino people. Lourdes Sereno, and the rest of the Supreme Court Justices allied to the Aquino Cojuangco political axis; can just uphold this evil done by these evil people.

    Let us congratulate those Justices, who voted for the ouster of Lourdes Sereno. They are the true patriots of the country.

    1. agree to this following comments The Qou Warranto petition, finally ousted the bitch, Lourdes Sereno, from her position. She was placed there in the Supreme Court to protect the Hacienda Luisita of the Aquino Cojuangco family. She was placed there, by Pnoy Aquino., to promote/protect the political interests of the Aquino Cojuangco political axis. They can just cheat elections, manipulate the electoral process, subvert the choice and the will of the Filipino people. Lourdes Sereno, and the rest of the Supreme Court Justices allied to the Aquino Cojuangco political axis; can just uphold this evil done by these evil people. Let us congratulate those Justices,

  5. What’s funny is the thing with the dissenting opinions, such as Carpio’s and Leonen’s. That thing is, they admitted that Sereno committed fraud and violated rules. But they still went against the quo warranto which was for immediate removal. So why didn’t they go the full mile and do it? I thought they wanted impeachment for dramatic effect. I wonder if they were confused or half-hearted about it. But I later wondered, could they have thought, “OK, she violated the law, but let’s not punish her yet and give her the benefit of the doubt.” It looks like a move to protect her, and that actually means impunity. If they call out Duterte for impunity, it should go the other way round; they have it in spades.

  6. Sure, Sereno has weaseled her way to Chief Justice and is seemingly incapable of her job, so thus deserving of her ouster. But let’s be real. This has everything to do with politics. She defied many of Duterte’s plans and has openly criticized him, so Duterte simply used a political tool available at his disposal to remove her from office. She made herself a target.

    Of course, while politicking is just the motive, it is not the content itself. Her non-filing of SALN is still grounds for her removal. De Lima and Binay (during NoyNoy’s time) have previously made comments about “pinupulitiko lang ako” as if that invalidates their respective predicaments.

    So how is this relevant? I’ll hazard a guess Sereno isn’t the only one who missed a bunch of SALN filings in Supreme Court, or any government office. If I remember correctly, Sereno made a last ditch effort to warn the court (?), that if they proceed with removing her due to lack of SALN, then it would set a precedent that everybody else failing to file theirs would also be subject to the same scrutiny. Sereno may be grasping at anything to convince the court not to pursue her removal, but I think she may have some actual knowledge of somebody’s skeleton in their closet. And like any other administration, you won’t get scrutinized (or at least, of less priority for investigation) as long as you are allied to the ruling party.

    Pardon my cynical tone, but to me, “Victory” is subjective. This is all just politics.

    1. Well, she pissed off enough amount of Supreme Court justices. She should not be suprised if her own colleagues wanted her to be ousted without even the influence of the president. If you will only read the 153 pages decision of her colleagues and watch the court sessions, you will feel the tension between her and the other justices. It seems she was hated by her own colleagues inside the Supreme Court just because she was acting like a dictator.

      1. Oh, I think I’ve read that somewhere. I think it was one of ThinkingPinoy’s articles with claims of “credible insider”. If that article is to be believed, Sereno was said to be very disliked among the justices, following the ousting of their “more beloved” Corona. She acted on things that were never consulted to the Supreme Court body, with reasoning like “she’s Chief Justice, and her own consent is enough” or something to that effect.

        Okay, I’ll slightly change my statement. While Duterte really wanted Sereno out, it was the judges inside Supreme Court that acted upon her ousting. They really want her gone. So it’s still politics, but an internal one.

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