LEADERS of progressive groups led by lawmakers from the so-called Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the quo warranto petition filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for lack of jurisdiction and lack of merit.

According to the petitioners, the assailed petition, filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, is unconstitutional as Sereno is an impeachable officer, thus, can only be ousted through impeachment.

The petitioners said "the OSG should not be allowed to make a mockery of the impeachment process in Congress by hijacking the same with the mere filing of a quo warranto petition against Sereno."

They argued that the Congress has the sole authority to impeach the embattled chief magistrate.

"The filing of this present quo warranto petition is nothing but an attempt circumvent the constitutional process and to wrest the power to 'oust' or remove an impeachable public official away from Congress and Filipino people," the petition read.

Last March 19, the House justice panel voted unanimously to affirm its draft committee report and the accompanying articles of impeachment against Sereno.

READ: House panel approves articles of impeachment vs Sereno

The development came after 15 probable cause hearings into the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against the chief magistrate.

In the petition, the petitioner-lawmakers said that OSG's petition against Sereno lacks merit.

They cited Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, which states that quo warranto is the process to remove public officials who "usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise or officials who does or suffers an act which, by the provision of law, constitutes a ground for the forfeiture of his office."

The petitioners said the petition for quo warranto should be differentiated from the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.

They explained that the quo warranto questions the validity of an appointment, while the impeachment complaint deals with the impeachable offenses committed by an official.

"The issue of respondent’s SALNs is an issue for impeachment and not a question of qualification," they said.

The OSG, in its petition, said that Sereno should have been disqualified by the Judicial and Bar Council when she applied for her post in 2012 because she had failed to prove her integrity as shown in her failure to submit her complete SALNs.

The lawmakers believe that Sereno's non-filing of SALNs does not have the effect of putting her integrity in question.

They also said that the submission of SALNs is not an absolute requirement under the 1987 Constitution and that the same is imposed only by the JBC.

Thus, the latter has the jurisdiction to relax or waive the requirements it imposes, they said.

During the previous impeachment proceedings against Sereno at the House of Representatives, it was discovered that the latter only filed SALNs for the years 1998, 2002 and 2006 during her tenure as law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law from the years 1986 up to 2006.

Lawyer Annaliza Capacite, a regular member of the JBC, said that amid the non-compliance of Sereno, the council has decided to include her still in the shortlist of the candidates for the chief magistrate post.

She said Senator Francis Escudero, a JBC member, then suggested that the rules on SALN submission should be relaxed and said that an attempt to comply should already be considered substantial compliance.

Sereno allegedly failed to submit her SALNs for 17 times.

In her reply to the complaint against her at the SC, she defended her failure to submit her SALNs by saying that the other Chief Justice nominees in 2012 also did not submit their SALNs.

Named petitioners in the petition for opposition in intervention are Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao, and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago.

Other petitioners are Francisco Alcuaz, Bonifacio Ilagan, George Rabusa, Rene Saguisag, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Renato Reyes, Kaye Ann Legaspi and Ephraim Cortez. (SunStar Philippines)