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Pangilinan: Any justice fair game for ouster

/ 06:30 AM May 15, 2018

INDEPENDENCE LOST? Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno talks to her supporters after her colleagues in the Supreme Court kicked her out on Friday.—JOAN BONDOC

Will any of the Supreme Court justices dare to go against the executive department following the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice?

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, said any justice in the high court was now fair game for removal through a quo warranto petition if he or she contradicted the administration.

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In a post on his Facebook account, Pangilinan also said that the scales could tilt in Sereno’s favor if one of the justices changed his or her mind when she filed her motion for reconsideration.

The court had voted 8-6 to grant Solicitor General Jose Calida’s petition to unseat Sereno on the ground that she was not qualified to hold the post of Chief Justice for failing to file her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

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“The problem here is the justice who changes his or her mind may be next to face a quo warranto case, slapped with any accusation, even if these are made-up ones (like the fake case against Sen. [Leila] de Lima) and removed from office,” Pangilinan said.

Lamenting that the Supreme Court “has lost its independence,” he said anybody who went against the executive in any petition could now be unseated through a quo warranto case.

“Isang sunud-sunuran na korte na lamang ang [Supreme Court]. Huwad na Kataastaasang Hukuman (The Supreme Court is now a docile court. It is a bogus Supreme Court),” he added.

‘Powerful enemies’

Former President Benigno Aquino III echoed Pangilinan and said he admired Sereno, whom he appointed Chief Justice in 2012, for “standing up to powerful enemies in government.”

“We need a Supreme Court that is truly independent, sturdy and which will not fall under anyone’s influence. In this case, when they suddenly found a new way of ousting a justice of the Supreme Court, people could not help but speculate that the same process could be used against anyone else,” Aquino said in Tarlac on Monday.

“Wouldn’t you fear that your government position is under threat should you go against the norm? If that happens, what can we expect from the Supreme Court? That’s what saddens me,” he added.

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Impartiality questioned

Pangilinan also trained his ire on the magistrates who testified against Sereno in the House of Representatives and then voted against her in the quo warranto petition.

This runs contrary to the Code of Judicial Conduct, which states that a judge should take no part in a proceeding where his or her impartiality may reasonably be questioned, he said.

“Is that fair? They made the accusations and they were also the ones to judge these?” Pangilinan said.

The five justices who testified in the House were Teresita de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam.

Tijam penned the decision for the majority against Sereno on the quo warranto case, which preempted her impeachment in the House.

Sereno impeachment

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, however, said the chamber still had until the end of the year to act on Sereno’s impeachment and until the resumption of Congress on July 23 to put the matter on the plenary agenda.

Fariñas reiterated that the House should wait for Sereno’s planned appeal to be resolved first by her former colleagues in the high court before it acted on the matter of impeachment.

This, he said, is “out of respect to a coequal department that has ruled it has jurisdiction over the matter of the legality of the appointment.” —With reports from Vince F. Nonato and Maria Adelaida Calayag

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TAGS: Francis Pangilinan, Maria Lourdes Sereno, quo warranto petition, Sereno impeachment, Supreme Court
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