After SC ousts her, what can Sereno do now?

Lian Buan
After SC ousts her, what can Sereno do now?
Can she ignore the decision and assert herself as the chief justice?

MANILA, Philippines – What can she do now?

Maria Lourdes Sereno is looking at several scenarios after the Supreme Court (SC) ousted her on Friday, May 11. The SC en banc voted 8-6 in favor of the quo warranto petition that sought to declare her appointment in 2012 invalid.

There are possible scenarios after this ouster, and many of them spell crisis.

Rappler lists them down with the help of constitutional law professor Dan Gatmaytan.

1. She can accept the decision and leave

Simple, Sereno can accept the decision, leave the Supreme Court, and never look back.

2. File an appeal

A sober scenario is the procedural one. She can file a motion for reconsideration, and use the appeal period to think of the next strategies.

“But if she has no new argument, then typically the Supreme Court will dismiss it,” Gatmaytan said.

Gatmaytan added that Sereno remains the chief justice during the appeal period.

“But it’s not going to be a long time,” he said.

3. She can defy the decision outright

Sereno can play the extremes and defy the decision. 

“She would have a constitutional basis because she would say she wasn’t removed according to the provisions of the Constitution. But on a practical level, she probably won’t do that,” Gatmaytan said.

It would put the Supreme Court under more stress because then the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will have to start the search for her replacement while she’s still there.

“That’s not a smart political move, she will appear as a nuisance more than anything else. Morally, she would be correct, legally she might even be, but on a practical level, it might not be smart to hold the fort,” Gatmaytan said.

4. Congress can assert jurisdiction

Between the two houses, it’s the Senate that’s more interested in asserting its jurisdiction as the constitutionally mandated body to handle an impeachment. The thing is, the articles of impeachment have not been transmitted by the House of Representatives to the Senate yet. The House resumes session on May 15.

That doesn’t matter, said Gatmaytan, as the Senate can always invoke its constitutional mandate as an impeachment court.

But when that happens, it would result in a constitutional crisis.

Gatmaytan said the Senate could have challenged it before the SC earlier. Now that Sereno has been ousted, Gatmaytan said the Senate may have lost its chance.

What the Senate can do is just completely ignore the quo warranto ouster. “It won’t look good, but it won’t be the first time because lately we have been seeing a lot of that,” Gatmaytan said.

“When other branches of government, as it is now, are ignoring the Supreme Court, that’s a bad sign. That means that the courts are not equal, they are regarding the Supreme Court as a lesser branch, they’re calling it names now. It’s something that would not have happened 10 years ago, 5 years ago,” he added.

5. Sereno can leave for now, and seek reversal later

I think the premise is that the SC can always review its decisions, there’s this possibility that they can reverse the decision at some point in the future,” Gatmaytan said.

That will have to depend on who the next appointees to the Supreme Court are.

Is it upon Sereno now to avoid all these potential crises and quietly leave?

“If we want to avoid crisis, then the Supreme Court should follow the law. I disagree that Sereno has the ball. If there really is an issue about the chief justice, they should be threshed out in an impeachment trial,” Gatmaytan said. – Rappler.com

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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 lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.