MANILA Opposition lawmakers on Thursday filed impeachment complaints against seven Supreme Court (SC) justices who ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno via quo warranto.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin filed the impeachment complaints before the Office of the Secretary General at the House of Representatives.
The lawmakers sought the removal of associate justices Noel Tijam, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta and Francis Jardeleza.
The magistrates are being accused of violating the Constitution and betrayal of public trust in connection with the SC decision dated May 11, 2018, ousting Sereno as top magistrate.
De Castro, Bersamin, Peralta, and Reyes are among the aspirants vying for the Chief Justice post following Sereno's ouster.
Lagman said former associate justice Samuel Martires, who also voted to grant the quo warranto petition, was not included in the impeachment complaint because he has been appointed as the new Ombudsman.
The complainants said granting the quo warranto petition is not only errant, it is also malevolent.
It is not only bereft of constitutional anchorage, it is also a blatant subterfuge, an orchestrated charade, the complainants said.
The complainants accused the seven justices of allegedly violating the Constitution, saying they are fully aware that impeachment is the only mode or process of removing impeachable officials, like the Chief Justice.
They also said a petition for quo warranto is "anathema" to the constitutional mandate that the power to impeach is solely vested with the Congress.
De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Tijam and Jardeleza are also charged with betrayal of public trust for their refusal to inhibit themselves in the adjudication of the quo warranto petition.
The five magistrates testified against Sereno during the House Committee on Justice hearing and approved the quo warranto petition during the oral arguments before the SC.
Alejano said the filing of the impeachment complaint is the "proper and legal venue" to seek accountability on the justices' actions.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the "mere filing" of an impeachment complaint will not have any effect on the nomination of the four SC justices for the top magistrate post.
In my personal opinion, the mere filing of an impeachment complaint, which is not the same as a criminal or administrative complaint in the ordinary sense, will not have any effect on the nomination of the four justices for the CJ position, Guevarra said in a text message, referring to the applications of de Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, and Reyes.
The Judicial Bar Coucil (JBC) is scheduled to deliberate on the CJ applications on Friday and possibly vote for the shortlist to be transmitted to President Rodrigo Duterte.
Apart from the four high court magistrates, Tagum City, Davao Del Norte Regional Trial Court Branch 1 Presiding Judge Virginia Tehano-Ang is also a candidate for the top judicial post.
Based on the rules of JBC, pending administrative and/or criminal complaint(s) is a mandatory ground for disqualification against applicants to positions in the judiciary.
SC public information office chief Theodore Te did not give any reaction "since no one has actually read" the impeachment complaints.
The SC, voting 8-6, granted the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida in a decision issued last May 11. The decision became final on June 19.
The quo warranto petition sought the nullification of Sereno's appointment as Chief Justice for her failure to comply with the requirements to qualify for the position.
The failure of ousted Chief Sereno to meet this 10-SALN requirement was among the grounds cited by the SC in granting the quo warranto petition against her.
The petition sought to void Sereno's appointment as Chief Justice in 2012 due to her failure to submit before the JBC her SALNs she was supposed to have filed during her tenure as law professor at the University of the Philippines. (With reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency