Impeach won’t affect CJ bets

By Alvin Murcia, Hananeel Bordey and Gladys Mae Ablon

The filing of impeachment complaints against Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justices who voted to oust former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto process will not affect the nomination of four of them for the vacant top judiciary post, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

The Judicial and Bar Council, which is tasked under the Constitution to screen applicants for available judiciary posts, will vote today on names on the chief justice shortlist from which President Rodrigo Duterte will choose the new SC head.

Members of the so-called Magnificent 7 at the House of Representatives led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed an impeachment complaint against

Justices Teresita de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Andres Reyes, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Alexander Gesmundo for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust in ousting Sereno.
“In my personal opinion, the mere filing of an impeachment complaint, which is not the same as a criminal or administrative complaint in the ordinary sense, will not have any effect on the nomination of the four SC justices for the CJ position,” Guevarra said.
Asked to comment on the filing of impeachment complaint, SC Public Information Office chief Atty. Theodore Te said: “Nope since no one has actually read them.”

Martires exempted

The group of opposition congressmen did not include in the complaint Ombudsman Samuel Martires, who was one of the eight Justices who removed Sereno, since he is no longer an SC member after President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him as Ombudsman in place of retired Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Lagman was joined by Akbayan Rep. Tomas Villarin, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. of the Lone District of Ifugao in the filing of the impeachment complaints before the Office of the House Secretary General.

They averred in their complaint that the SC decision dated 11 May 2018 ousting Sereno by granting the quo warranto petition of Solicitor General Jose Calida “is not only errant, it is also malevolent. It is not only bereft of constitutional anchorage, it is also a blatant subterfuge, an orchestrated charade.”

Apart from the SC justices, the only other candidate seeking the vacant post is regional trial court (RTC) Judge Virginia Tehano-Ang of Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

Pick within 90 days

The President is mandated, under the Constitution, to make his choice within 90 days from 19 June when the SC affirmed Sereno’s ouster last 11 May.

The tribunal granted the quo warranto petition of Calida which sought to void Sereno’s 2012 appointment as chief justice for having failed to submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) which was one of the requirements set by the JBC on applicants for the chief justice post.

A petition for quo warranto or any other mode of removal is anathema to the unequivocal mandate of the Constitution that the power to impeach is solely vested in Congress, according to the complaint.

In construing the word “may” as merely directory suggesting the availability of other options of ousting impeachable officers, the respondent justices violated the unmistakable context and intent of Section 2 in relation to Section 3 of Article XI of the Constitution.

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