UNDER the Constitution, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno may be removed only by House impeachment and Senate trial for the grounds listed in the fundamental law.
That procedure has been underway. The House committee on justice has been holding public hearings. Soon the House en banc will vote on the articles of impeachment that it will send to the Senate.
Just a matter of time. House leaders who control the vote haven’t concealed their intent to take Sereno down. It’s in the Senate where she expects to get fair hearing.
And here comes Solicitor General Jose Calida who wants to add another means to remove Sereno.
Calida filed yesterday (March 5) a petition for quo warranto, asking the Supreme Court to unseat Sereno because her appointment was unlawful.
Never mind that:
■ The House has long begun impeachment proceedings against Sereno, the procedure provided by the Constitution for the SC chief justice and other constitutional officers;
■ The one-year period for filing the quo warranto has prescribed since Sereno has occupied the CJ seat for more than five years already.
Calida cited a precept in common law to support his move against Sereno beyond the one-year requirement. In Latin, “Nullum tempus occurit regi” or “No time rules against the state” sounds intimidating. Until one questions whether common law in our legal setting is superior to the written law.
Besides, this is a case where a mechanism is expressly provided for evicting a chief justice. Not an ordinary law but he Constitution itself created the structure and process.
Situation in SC
Here’s what the other prong of the attack waged by the solicitor general may lead to:
■ Another forum is opened for Sereno to defend herself, thus adding to her burden of answering accusations regarding the same cause of action; ■ Members of the high court who worked for her removal, some even testifying against her in the Senate hearings, and the “mutiny” by court in pressuring her to take an indefinite leave have produced a conflict-of-interest situation.
Bad for the cat
The problem with the multiple-forum assault on Sereno is that it is being used to depict her as a victim of persecution. It also creates the perception that evidence against her must be weak.
Focus on the impeachment trial, where Sereno herself says she would like to tell her story. There’s an element of politics in it, more visibly in the House, but due process is somehow assured in the Senate trial.
There are many ways to skin a cat but, it is also said, it’s never good for the cat. Bad not just for Sereno but also for the institutions that are being put to a severe test in these uncertain times.