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House minority nixes impeachment bid versus anti-Sereno SC justices

/ 06:35 AM May 24, 2018

The House of Representatives’ duly recognized minority bloc will not join the opposition’s plan to seek the impeachment of the eight Supreme Court justices who voted to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

In a press briefing, Senior Deputy Minority Leader Lito Atienza defended the high court decision as a “product of legal minds, legal interpretation and constitutional interpretation.”

“What do we want — a political decision or a legal interpretation?” Atienza said, adding that he would take the justices’ decision rather than a Senate impeachment trial presided over by politicians.

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Questioning the Supreme Court’s judicial independence could backfire and open the floodgates for impeachment complaints by litigants who lose in the Supreme Court, he said.

May 11 decision

“We might not be able to control this. Perhaps this is what they want?” Atienza said of the plan of the House’s “Magnificent Seven” to file an impeachment complaint should the high court sustain its May 11 decision.

“Let us not forget, only the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution,” he added. “How can you impeach a justice performing his acts, his duties?”

Deputy Minority Leader Eugene Michael de Vera said: “You can criticize the decision of the [Supreme Court], but you have to obey it and respect it.”

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, meanwhile, took exception to a newspaper headline describing the opposition bloc as “House minority.”

The House has deferred action on the impeachment proceedings against Sereno, opting not to elevate the case to the Senate, after the Supreme Court ruled that her 2012 appointment was invalid because she failed to submit all her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Unprecedented

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The high court granted the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General in an unprecedented decision that has drawn rebuke from legal circles.

Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution states that impeachable officers, including the President, “may be removed from office on impeachment.”

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam, interpreted the use of the word “may” to mean impeachment was just “a mere possibility, an opportunity or an option.”

Alternatives not mentioned in the Constitution, such as a quo warranto petition, could be resorted to in ousting impeachable officials like Sereno, he said.

Concurring with Tijam were Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, Andres B. Reyes Jr. and Alexander G. Gesmundo. With a report from Jatt Salvacion

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TAGS: House minority bloc, Lito Atienza, Maria Lourdes Sereno, quo warranto petition, Sereno impeachment, Supreme Court
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