MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday blasted the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, calling it “an assault against the Senate’s integrity and democratic processes.”
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, for its part, decried “the use of a judicial bulldozer” to force Sereno from her post, calling the quo warranto proceedings “a desperate move by the Duterte regime, through the Solicitor General, to unseat the Chief Justice through means other than the pending impeachment process.”
A quo warranto action questions a person’s authority to occupy a public position.
The petition was filed by Calida despite wide expectations the House of Representatives will vote to submit the impeachment complaint against Sereno to the Senate for trial.
Calida’s bid came most of Sereno’s colleagues, a number of who testified against her in the impeachment proceedings, asked her to go on indefinite leave.
Supporters of Sereno question the constitutionality of the quo warranto proceedings but at the same time see these as proof the administration sees Sereno will survive a Senate trial, thus the scramble to remove her by other means.
Hontiveros also pointed this out: “The Constitution is clear. The best way to hold accountable and remove impeachable high-ranking government officials is through the process of impeachment where the Senate is convened as an impeachment court.”
Taking cognizance of the petition “could set a dangerous precedent where the Senate is relegated to the political sidelines,” she warned.
“It is part of a greater scheme to render the Senate obsolete and irrelevant, when it is one of the few institutions left where the government’s abuses can still be checked,” she said.
“Just imagine. If the Executive can impeach a Supreme Court Chief Justice without the Senate, it can also change the constitution without it. It is no secret that this government is adamant in changing the constitution even without the participation of the Senate,” she added.
On the other hand, Bayan said the proceedings “can and will be used against other justices of the SC in the future.”
“It also makes a mockery of the so-called checks and balance in government, including the impeachment process itself,” it added.
If the bid succeeds, “the high court will continue to lose credibility because its actions will be perceived as motivated by in-fighting and not by the rule of law” and would “mark an all-time low” for the tribunal.
“The Chief Justice wants her day in court. She wants to defend herself,” Bayan said. “Denying her such, at this late stage, casts doubt on the impeachment complaint and the evidence so far presented. The complainants do not seem confident they can actually get a conviction in the Senate.”