Alvarez eyes questioning validity of Sereno’s appointment to SC
Beyond the impeachment process in the House of Representatives, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez now wants to assail the validity of Maria Lourdes Sereno’s appointment as chief justice of the Supreme Court, which may open a path for her fellow magistrates to declare the post vacant.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, the Speaker said the House had gathered enough evidence to impeach Sereno, but he gave the case only a “50-50 chance” of going to the Senate for trial, saying the administration-backed supermajority would have to study it carefully.
At the same time, Alvarez proposed that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) should look into the possibility of questioning the legality of Sereno’s appointment as the top magistrate in 2012, arguing that this was the province of the judiciary and out of the control of the House.
“Impeachment presupposes a valid appointment,” he told reporters.
“For example, if you did not submit the requisites for a position, is your appointment valid? If you ask me, I would file a case with the Supreme Court to question the validity of the appointment itself,” he said.
If Sereno’s appointment should be declared invalid, then the impeachment proceeding would be rendered moot, the Speaker said.
Sereno was appointed to her post in August 2012 by then President Benigno Aquino III.
In the course of the House impeachment hearings, it was alleged that she had failed to meet some of the requirements for the appointment, including the submission of her financial statements and her psychiatric assessment.
Alvarez said the OSG would be the “logical” government agency that might be tasked with building a case against Sereno, who had taken an indefinite leave of absence to prepare in advance for the Senate impeachment trial.
He said the House was the only institution that could impeach a sitting chief justice. But this would be the case o only “if the appointment is valid,” he said.
Otherwise, the Supreme Court itself could take action internally to void the appointment of one of its members, Alvarez said.
He clarified that this did not mean the impeachment case against Sereno was not strong enough.
“I think there are more than enough grounds,” he said. “Those grounds we have collected in the investigation will support our case. For example, betrayal of public trust. Many incidents [we have uncovered] will prove [she committed] betrayal of public trust.”
Asked how the House might vote on the impeachment case once it had been tackled in plenary, Alvarez demurred, saying: “There’s a 50-50 chance, because there’s nothing yet. Anything can happen.”
The House justice committee is expected to vote on whether there is probable cause to impeach Sereno next week.
Alvarez said there were no “marching orders” to members of the supermajority, including the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan party, to vote in favor of Sereno’s impeachment.
“Even myself [there are no marching orders]. Others are doubtful of Malacañang [having a hand in this], but there’s really none,” he said. /atm
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