Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Seares: Pro-Sereno justices didn’t see her sinless

THE Supreme Court justices, six of them, who voted against the ouster of Ma. Lourdes Sereno as chief justice supported her not because they believed she did no wrong. They just didn’t believe the method of removing her -- quo warranto instead of impeachment and trial -- was right.

Sereno must have realized that her colleagues on her side did not see as without sin. Explicably though, her pitch in public forums has dwelt more on “law and justice” than on the wrath of her peers.

‘Not sanctioned’ road

If we go by the metaphor used by the “ponencia” (Associate Justice Noel Tijam) and by one of the dissenting opinions (AJ Alfredo Caguioa), the dispute is over the road to travel.

Tijam said quo warranto is the “road less traveled.” Caguioa shot back: “The reason it has not been taken is it’s not a sanctioned road.”

And Caguioa piled his arguments with solid facts, specific laws and sharp logic. Which raises the probable explanation for the majority vote: loathing towards Sereno overwhelmed clarity of thought.

‘Dislikable’ she

Her critics say she deserved it. Even the “nay” justices put on record the in-house dislike towards the first woman chief justice. At least three of them showed in their dissent what they felt, in varying degrees, towards Sereno:

[] Caguioa: “No matter how dislikable a member of the court is, the rules cannot be changed just to get rid of him, or her in this case.”

[] Justice Antonio Carpio: “In the light of her previous failure to file her SALNs (as a U.P. law professor and when she assumed as SC justice), it constitutes culpable violation of the Constitution.”

[] Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe: “If there’s one thing that’s glaringly apparent, it’s actually the lack of candor and forthrightness in submitting her SALNs.”

Citing quotes

The wrong road was taken. The rules were changed, the Constitution rewritten. To the dissenting justices, Sereno’s alleged fuck-up with her SALNs would not justify taking the wrong procedure.

“No one is above the law,” said Tijam, not even a Supreme Court chief justice. “Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea,” Caguioa shoots back, quoting Ayn Rand in the novel “Fountainhead.”

So easy to cite a quotation to support one’s stand. It’s how the facts and the law are marshaled that’s supposed to win the argument although numbers in court can demolish the more forceful view.


What may persuade at least one justice to change his vote on the motion for reconsideration? The dissenting opinions, especially Caguioa’s. They don’t defend Sereno’s faults or lapses. They tell what “abominable” act the vote for the quo warranto ouster has produced.

Even in the language of a court ruling, Caguioa presented his case lucidly. But more simply put, here’s what the dissent said the pro-quo warranto vote did: The court in effect gave up its own independence by using the Constitution, the same document that it was asked to uphold.

A “seppuku,” a “suicide” by an institution, “without honor.” And with what? “Hermeneutics.” “Cheap trickery couched in some gaudy innovation.”


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