MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s appointment to the Supreme Court (SC) could be deemed “invalid.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, February 28, Alvarez cited the evaluation of an expert witness – a clinical psychologist who deemed Sereno unsuitable for the post.
Dr Geraldine Tria made the assessment based on a Manila Times article that claimed Sereno got a 4 out of 5 rating – 5 being the lowest – during her psychiatric exam when she applied for the top judicial post.
Alvarez said Solicitor General Jose Calida could file a petition before the SC even as he insisted there is probable cause for the House of Representatives to impeach Sereno. (READ: How Sereno answered her impeachment complaint)
“I think the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) can explore that angle,” said Alvarez.
He also argued that the result of the psychiatric exam could be an instance of “betrayal of public trust,” one of the grounds for impeachment.
Aside from this, the House justice committee hearing the impeachment complaint against Sereno had also discovered that she failed to submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) when she applied for the post. SC justices decried this, accusing Sereno of “manipulation.”
“An impeachment presupposed a valid appointment. But if the Supreme Court says the appointment is invalid, patay tayo (game’s over),” said Alvarez, while insisting that the House will still push through with the impeachment process.
The Senate has also said it is already preparing for the Chief Justice’s impeachment trial. (READ: Sereno ready for ‘highly probable’ Senate trial: ‘7 taon na akong binabantayan’)
The Chief Justice will be going on leave starting Thursday, March 1. Her camp said she is taking a “wellness leave” earlier than scheduled, but sources later said SC justices pressured Sereno to take a leave of absence. (READ: Why SC justices forced Sereno to go on leave)
Spokespersons of the Chief Justice have maintained she will not resign despite the controversy.
Asked if she should, given that her colleagues have openly questioned her appointment, Alvarez said resignation is a “personal choice.” (READ: Sereno: Justices’ grudges against me their problem, not mine) – Rappler.com