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Roque: SC ruling doesn’t cover President

Harry Roque —JOAN BONDOC

The applicability of last week’s Supreme Court decision removing the Chief Justice from office through a quo warranto petition to the President and other impeachable officials is “purely speculative,” Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said only Maria Lourdes Sereno did not comply with the constitutional requirement for nominees to the top job in the judiciary to submit all of their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).

“What is clear is that the quo warranto was filed against a specific government official who was required to file her SALNs by virtue of the Constitution and the law,” Roque told reporters, shrugging off claims that the May 11 Supreme Court ruling had made the solicitor general more powerful.

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Solicitor General Jose Calida brought the quo warranto petition against Sereno despite a bid in the House of Representatives to impeach her on charges of violating the Constitution and betraying public trust.

Citing Sereno’s failure to submit all of her SALNs to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body that vets nominees for the positions in the judiciary, Calida challenged her integrity and the validity of her 2012 appointment.

The Supreme Court voted 8-6 to grant Calida’s petition and ordered Sereno, the Philippines’ first female Chief Justice, to vacate her office.

No new power

Roque said the high court ruling did not give any new power to the solicitor general.

“The Constitution had required the filing of SALNs and this was the basis used by the solicitor general [in bringing the petition against Sereno],” he added.

Roque said the other ground for quo warranto besides the SALN requirement had to do with citizenship.

The Constitution requires all government officials to be natural-born Filipino citizens.

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“[I]f there are issues involving [the] citizenship of a Supreme Court justice then it could be filed and questioned through a petition for quo warranto,” Roque said.

The ruling is widely seen as having rendered vulnerable to challenge even elected constitutional officers such as the President and the Vice President.

Not only by impeachment

In deciding to boot out Sereno, the Supreme Court pointed out that the Constitution did not explicitly state that constitutional officers like the President, Vice President and Supreme Court justices could be removed only through impeachment.

“Impeachment is not an exclusive remedy by which an invalidly appointed or invalidly elected impeachable official may be removed from office,” said the ruling written for the majority by Associate Justice Noel Tijam.

“To subscribe to the view that appointments or election of impeachable officers are outside judicial review is to cleanse their appointments or election of any possible defect pertaining to the constitutionally prescribed qualifications [that] cannot otherwise be raised in an impeachment proceeding,” the ruling added.

In fact, the ruling said, even the Presidential Electoral Tribunal has recognized quo warranto petition as an option in ousting a President and Vice President who have already been declared winners of an election.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and five other justices voted to throw out Calida’s petition.

In his dissent, Carpio said Tijam’s interpretation of Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution was “erroneous.”

Ruling violates Constitution

The provision states: “The President, the Vice President, the members of the Supreme Court, the members of the constitutional commissions, and the 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.”

“Removal from office of these public officers shall only be by impeachment, and not through any other mode. . . The House impeaches and the Senate convicts. This is the only method under the Constitution to remove a member of this court,” Carpio said.

“To allow any other method is to rewrite the Constitution. To permit this quo warranto petition to remove an incumbent member of this court is to violate the Constitution,” he said.

Sereno has said she will appeal the ruling.

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TAGS: Harry Roque, Jose Calidaa, Maria Lourdes Sereno, quo warranto petition, Rodrigo Duterte, Sereno impeachment, Supreme Court
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