Sereno will attend, but inhibit in quo warranto voting

Lian Buan
Sereno will attend, but inhibit in quo warranto voting
It is a defiant message from the Chief Justice: if the justices want to oust her, they are going to have to do it to her face

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will join the special session of the Supreme Court en banc on Friday, May 11, but will inhibit if the justices vote on the quo warranto petition to oust her.

“This quo warranto petition may not be the only item in the agenda. If and when it is included in the agenda, then she will inhibit herself. But with respect to the other matters in the agenda, then she will preside over these matters,” Sereno’s spokesperson Carlo Cruz said on Tuesday, May 9.

Sereno ended her two-month indefinite leave on Tuesday, and showed up at the SC. She went outside to wave to her supporters from the staircase of the High Court but did not give a statement.

The Chief Justice is always the chair of the en banc. We asked if there’s a possibility for Sereno, as chair of the en banc, to block the quo warranto petition from being included in the agenda on Friday.

Kung nandun sa agenda, wala naman siyang magagawa, process naman yun. It’s in the business of the Court, mag-iinhibit lang siya (If it’s on agenda, she can’t do anything because it’s the process. It’s in the business of the Court, she will just inhibit),” spokesman Jojo Lacanilao said.

It’s a defiant message from the embattled Chief Justice – if her colleagues want to oust her, they are going to have to do it to her face.

“The Chief Justice has displayed this enough. She’s a very strong woman, she is here until the full process is completed. Resignation has never been an option, she will never resign. She is fighting for the truth and our Constitution,” Cruz said.

A former law dean said Sereno’s return to the SC as the en banc stands to decide on the petition is a “clear motive to disrupt the Court.”

“She puts herself in a position where she can communicate or influence the other justices ex parte with her mere presence. This, in itself, is a violation of her commitment to the Court and her ethics as a lawyer and magistrate,” the dean said.

Sereno had called for the inhibition of Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, and Samuel Martires, citing alleged bias.

Call to Carpio

It is unclear what the process is for justices returning from an indefinite leave, but Lacanilao said Sereno didn’t need permission to return to office.

Lacanilao said that Sereno called Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio on her way to the SC on Wednesday.

“She was not asking for permission, ang sabi lang naman daw ni Justice Carpio ay ‘okay’ (the only thing that Justice Carpio said was okay),” Lacanilao said.

Sources said she has not met any of the justices face-to-face yet.

Events on Friday, May 11, will again rock the Supreme Court, an institution that is still recovering from internal fissures, from when Renato Corona was ousted to the appointment of Sereno.

If she is ousted, she will become the first Philippine Chief Justice to be removed via quo warranto. It will push the Constitution to its bounds, and lawyers are worried about a crisis resulting from a potential clash of branches of government.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III had raised the possibility of questioning the validity of an SC ouster, and asserting the Senate’s jurisdiction as an impeachment court.

Sereno had said the quo warranto petition is the “gravest wound ever inflicted on the Constitution.” But it is curious how her leadership will stand opposition in her own turf, especially after employees, even judges, had already called for her resignation.

Cruz said they can’t say yet what they plan to do if she is ousted on Friday.

“We will see the tenor of the decision, how it will turn out. She is here to emphasize that she will adhere to the constitutional processes. If that is the decision of her peers, we will see what our next step would be, by way of a motion for reconsideration, but it alll depends how her brethren will decide,” Cruz

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.