Espinoza: Is quo warranto appropriate?

DESPITE the negative reports about our uniformed defenders, we still have policemen who are true to their oath. Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa awarded on Monday the Medal of Merit to PO2 Mel Bautista while P01 Gester Verzosa received the Wounded Personnel Medal for their exemplary performance.

PO1 Bautista, who was with his daughter on board his motorcycle on Feb. 26, chased Arnulfo Bamical, who snatched the cellphone of a jeepney passenger. Bamical was arrested after a long chase. PO1 Verzosa defended his life from an attacker (he was stabbed and wounded by a certain Renaldo Lee, Jr.). Verzosa shot Lee but instead of leaving him on the road he brought him to the hospital.

Bautista and Verzosa are the classic examples of real policemen. They performed beyond the call of their sworn duty. We need more of them in the PNP. Congratulations!

•••

From bad to worse is how the people in the know describe the petition for quo warranto that Solicitor General Jose Calida filed against beleaguered Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno before the Supreme Court. Calida said the failure of the chief justice to fully disclose her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) showed her “lack of integrity,” which is a ground to declare her as “unlawfully” holding her position.

Secretary Harry Roque, a former UP Law professor, described Calida’s move as “unprecedented.” He said the normal rule is that impeachable officers can only be removed through impeachment. “He believes the petitioners are fully cognizant of this doctrine and probably feel that under the circumstance the general rule should not be applicable So let’s wait for the decision of the Supreme Court,” Roque said.

With perhaps 10 SC associate justices not in good terms with Sereno, Calida finds the Highest Tribunal as the right venue to file the petition even as her impeachment before the Lower House has dragged on.

Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution (“Accountability of Public Officers”) provides that the President, Vice President, Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Constitutional Commissions, and Ombudsman “may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.”

Meanwhile, Section 2, Rule 66 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure says that, “The Solicitor General or a public prosecutor, when directed by the President of the Philippines, or when upon complaint or otherwise he has good reason to believe that any case specified in the preceding section can be established by proof, must commence such action.”

The claim that Malacañang has no hands in the move to oust the chief justice is somehow negated by the filing of the petition for quo warranto before the Supreme Court by no less than the solicitor general. Thus, we could not help but ask: What would our judiciary or judicial system become when the chief magistrate is hounded in Congress and right in her door step, the Supreme Court?

Perhaps, the answer would be that this happened to the late chief justice Renato Corona, who was impeached by Congress during the time of former president Noynoy Aquino. The case of Sereno, though, is different because even the SC is divided.

Now, would these 10 associate justices inhibit themselves from participating in the proceedings if the petition for quo warranto is acted upon by the SC? The answer to that is worth the wait.
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