Quo warranto vs Sereno impairs integrity of SC – Justice Caguioa
BAGUIO, Philippines – Removing Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition will impair the integrity of the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa said on Tuesday, April 10.
"Whoever is the solicitor general would be years from now, he would have the ability to wield a sword over our collective heads, over all our individual heads, and on that basis, impair the integrity of the Court as a court," Caguioa said during his interpellation in Tuesday's oral arguments on the quo warranto petition to oust Sereno.
Caguioa said that If Solicitor General Jose Calida successfully ousts Sereno through a quo warranto on the grounds of integrity, then nothing will stop him and future solicitors general from removing sitting justices in the future on the basis of any "integrity issue" they could find.
“If we were to follow the theory of the Solicitor General, he would have untethered discretion to file quo warranto suits at any time because according to him he is not bound by the one-year prescriptive period, he can file anytime for anything so long as he’s able to relate it to the question of integrity,” Caguioa said.
The justice added: “If one of us copied from our seat mate in college and becomes a sitting justice of the Supreme Court, he can be removed or ousted for lack of integrity because he cheated in college.”
This line of thinking is also grounded in the view that Sereno’s alleged non-filing, and non-submission of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) are not sufficient bases to say the Chief Justice has no integrity.
Sereno is of that view, and so is Caguioa.
“The rules (of the Judicial and Bar Council or JBC) by themselves do not provide the submission of the SALN without denigrating the value of the SALN. It’s just one of the things that the JBC would consider in assessing a person’s fitness to become a member,” Caguioa said.
This is also the view of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who said that a justice’s integrity cannot be measured by a mere piece of paper, but by whether he or she accepted bribes or stole public money.
Even if Sereno’s alleged SALN violation is more severe than how they see it, Caguioa said it still does not merit a shortcut of ouster outside of an impeachment process. Caguioa’s questioning of Sereno’s lawyer Alexander Poblador pointed that out.
Caguioa made an example of a sitting justice who is accused of committing either murder or bribery before appointment.
“Murder and bribery are both very grave crimes, and yet, according to you, the Constitution protects them while they sit as a justice of the Supreme Court,” Caguioa said.
Asked to explain the wisdom of it, Poblador said: “You can imagine that without this doctrine, any sitting judge can be subjected to vulnerable suits, harassment suits from disgruntled litigants or from powerful politicians or a government that does not tolerate opposition.”
Poblador added: “You change the makeup of the Court and influence how the Court adopts policies and you can actually control that by selectively removing certain justices who do not align themselves with government policy.”
Caguioa also discussed with Poblador the option of filing a petition for certiorari that would attack the JBC’s shortlist and the decision of the former president to appoint her. Any less, they said, would be a shortcut.
“You would have ignored (the JBC), you did not even review the JBC finding because according to the solicitor general the finding of the JBC is irrelevant. What you’re being asked to do is exercise a direct power not proceeding from expanded judicial power of review but the power to dismiss a fellow member of this court which you do not have,” Poblador said. – Rappler.com