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Gerry Baldo

Predictably, the opposition in the House of Representatives, claimed that there is collusion between the House and SC justices in the quo warranto case against Chief Justice on indefinite leave Lourdes Sereno lodged by the Solicitor General Jose Calida Monday before the Supreme Court.

But Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez takes the view that a quo warranto case is proper and can co-exist with impeachment proceedings.
Speaker Alvarez yesterday said the filing of a petition for quo warranto by the Solicitor General to question the validity of the appointment of the Chief Justice is a proper course of action.
In an ambush interview, Alvarez noted that the ongoing impeachment process and the quo warranto petition of the Sol Gen are two separate causes of action that can proceed independently of each other.
“Well that (quo warranto) is correct. There are two fiferent causes of action, right? The impeachment is exclusive to Congress but it presupposes a valid appointment. 

“That’s a proper course of action, this quo warranto because there are two separate causes of action. The impeachment process is exclusive to Congress but it presupposes a valid appointment. Now what quo warranto questions is the validity of the appointment itself. So quo warranto is proper because that power is exclusive to the judicial branch of government.
Alvarez allayed the concern that the quo warranto proceedings lodged against Sereno would set a dangerous precedent and open the floodgates of similar suits to seek the ouster of impeachable officials.
“No, it wouldn’t because what is the subject of quo warranto here is the validity of the appointment. If the appointee has complied with all the requirements then he could never be the subject of a quo warranto proceeding.
Likewise, Alvarez dismissed the contention of Sereno’s camp that her appointment as Chief Justice is valid because it complied with the basic constitutional requirements and that the submission of the SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth) is just a supplementary requirement imposed by the Judicial and Bar Council.
“That’s not correct because submission of SALN is mandated under the Constitution. All government employees are required to submit their SALNs as provided for in the Constitution. If you fail to submit your SALN you are not only administratively, but possibly even criminally, liable.
Art. XI, Section 17 of the Constitution provides that: “A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth.”
“As a lawyer, I think there is good basis for the quo warranto petition.
Inhibition call to SC
justices not the answer
Alvarez also dismissed the call for the inhibition in the quo warranto case of the SC justices who demanded that Sereno take an indefinite leave.
“None of the justices would remain to decide the case. I don’t think so. Why should they inhibit when that’s their job? Besides there is no personal interest involved here.
Out of respect for the court, Alvarez refused to comment if the action of the 13 justices who asked Sereno to go on indefinite leave is indicative of the possible ruling of the High Court in the quo warranto case.
“I don’t know. Anything can happen,” Alvarez said.
But until the SC renders a decision on the quo warranto case, Alvarez said the House can proceed with the impeachment proceedings. The High Court has included the quo warranto case for its en banc deliberations yesterday.
“We’ll just continue the impeachment proceedings because that’s a separate process. On our part, we will just assume that her appointment is valid.
The House committee on justice is set to vote Thursday to determine the existence of probable cause to impeach Sereno. However, Alvarez said the House may opt to await the SC ruling before the plenary decides whether or not to send the case to the Senate for trial.
There is also nothing wrong if the justice committee is reportedly preparing the articles of impeachment even before the actual voting to speed up the process, according to Alvarez. He noted that Sereno has dared the House to immediately send the impeachment to the Senate for trial.
On the other hand, Alvarez said that the SC rules in favor of the quo warranto case, the ground for Sereno’s impeachment ceases to exist.
“If the Supreme Court grants the quo warranto that means the appointment was declared invalid, so who are we going to impeach? Nobody,” Alvarez stressed.
Alvarez said he is leaving it to the hands of Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas to map out the proper course of action for the House.
If the case reaches the Senate for trial, Alvarez said he would leave the task of prosecuting Sereno to other more qualified lawmakers. Instead, Alvarez said he would rather stay in the sidelines to watch the proceedings.
“I’d just be there to applaud the prosecutors).
Usual oppositors insist on collusion theory
Albay Rep Edcel Lagman and Magdalo Rep Gary Alejano made the statement of suspicion of collusion between the House and the Supreme Court Justices following the reluctance of the House to pursue its impeachment complaint before the Senate impeachment court.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said that the House is going to wait for the resolution of a quo warranto case filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against Sereno at the Supreme Court.
Lagman, Alejano and some other House members including administration lawmaker Ako Bicol Rep Rodel Batocabe are of the view that the House should not surrender its mandate as the sole body that should deal with the removal of impeachable officials.
“I don’t know whether the House should surrender it’s prerogative [to impeach Chief Justice],” Lagman said yesterday.
Lagman said that Fariñas’ statement could be an indication that the leadership of the House has advance information...that a petition for quo warranto would be filed.
“I see no reason why the House should forfeit it power and wait until the quo warranto petition is resolved by the Supreme Court,” Lagman said.
Alejano, for his part, said the fact that the House leadership wanted to wait for the result of the quo warranto petition means they’re not confident with the impeachment being favored by the Senators.
“It’s very clear that they wanted to remove the Chief Justice. And some of the justices of the Supreme Court I believe connived with members of the House in order to remove Chief Justice,” Alejano said.
“Remember, in other administrations, all of those who connived with the members of the House could be subject to impeachment as well. The House depends on who is in the administration,”, he added.
Alejano charged that some of the members of the Supreme Court “gave in to the converging interest of so many sectors including their own interest.”
On the quo warranto case, Lagman said it will preempt the power of the House to impeach the Chief Justice and the jurisdiction of the Senate to try and judge the culpability of the Chief Justice.
Lagman said he would like to get a lead from what Alejano said of a possible collusion between the House leadership and some of the justices of the. Supreme Court.
“Remember when there was this en banc proceeding last week which was perceived to oust the Chief Justice and subsequently they relented because they did not succeed and compelled the Chief Justice to file an indefinite leave of absence, no less than the chairman of the committee on justice had a running update of what was happening in the Supreme Court,” Lagman said.
“Most probably, no less than the committee on justice realize that their articles of impeachment cannot hold water in the Senate,” the Albay lawmaker said.
Fariñas said that after voting on the probable cause of the impeachment complaint, the House in plenary would at the earliest act on the complaint by May 14, 2018 depending on the action to be taken by the SC on the quo warranto case.
Meanwhile, a broad coalition of various sectors reiterated its support for Sereno in anticipation of what it called “unfair and unjust” report by the House Committee on Justice on the fatally defective impeachment complaint filed against the top magistrate.
The Coalition for Justice (CFJ) maintained that the impeachment case against Sereno is “a baseless and oppressive act to remove the independent head of the judiciary.”
“We stand with the Chief Justice and join her in her fight to defend the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and our threatened democracy,” the CFJ said in a statement.
CFJ serves as an umbrella organization for individuals, groups and organizations from diverse religious and political persuasions.

Carpio: SC statement not a mutiny vs CJ

Tuesday, 06 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The unprecedented joint statement of 13 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court clarifying that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is taking an indefinite and not a “wellness” leave was not a mutiny but an act to “preserve the integrity” of the SC, acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said yesterday.

The SC earlier issued a statement signed by 13 of the 15 Associate Justices saying they reached a “consensus” that Sereno should take an indefinite leave.
Carpio said in a television interview SC members are not ganging up against their Chief Justice but that they merely wanted to insulate the High Court from the effects of the politics of an imminent impeachment trial.
“There was a discussion (among the SC Justices) on how best to preserve the integrity of the Supreme Court, how to insulate the Supreme Court from the trial, from all of these political moves, and at the end of the day there was an agreement that she will go on leave with her consent and agreement,” Carpio said.
The sole function of the statement, he said, was to show the SC is “functioning normally” while Sereno goes on leave.
Carpio said that Sereno herself agreed to the suggestion that she takes an indefinite leave of absence.
“The basis for that indefinite leave is the consensus of all the justices including the Chief Justice, so it’s voluntary,” he said.
Sereno spokesman Jojo Lacanilao said in a press conference Sereno was taking a “wellness leave.”
Sereno thereafter apologized for what she called as “inaccuracy” in stating the nature of her leave which Sereno said she needed to prepare for her legal defense for the Senate impeachment trial.

Quo warranto is plan B
Members of the political opposition at the House of Representatives accused the Duterte administration of resorting to extra constitutional means to remove Sereno.
Ifugao Rep Teddy Brawner Baguilat said that even without consummating charter change, this administration is hell bent on rewriting the Constitution by trying to remove the fiercely independent Chief Justice through unconsti-tutional means,” Baguilat said.
Baguilat also tagged the House Committee on Justice as a kangaroo court which failed to build up a case against Sereno
“Despite the multiple attacks on the CJ’s person, the Kangaroo Court in the Committee on Justice has not build up a credible case of impeachable offenses committed by CJ Sereno,” Baguilat added.
The opposition lawmaker said that the quo warranto case now filed before the Supreme Court was triggered by the weak case of the justice panel.
“Thus, the administration doubts it can swing enough votes to oust Sereno in the Senate and is now resorting to this dubious quo warranto petition,” the Ifugao lawmaker said adding that the quo warranto case was a last ditch effort to remove Sereno.
Sereno’s camp said the Supreme Court ought nor entertain the quo warranto petition for it has absolutely no basis in law and in the Constitution.
“The High Tribunal should dismiss the petition outright on the basis that quo warranto is not a proper remedy. Under the 1987 Constitution, the Chief Justice may only be removed from office upon impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court,” lawyer Josa Deinla said.
The instant action for quo warranto against the Chief Justice is devoid of basis, not to mention that the one-year prescriptive period for filing such action has long prescribed pursuant to Section 11 of Rule 66 of the Rules of Court.
The Supreme Court, guided by its pronouncements in Jarque v. Ombudsman, In Re: Raul M. Gonzales and Cuenco v. Fernan, had laid down the rule that an impeachable officer, who is a member of the Bar, cannot be disbarred without first being impeached. The same principle applies to the quo warranto case filed against the Chief Justice. As pointed out in Cuenco v. Fernan, to grant a complaint for disbarment of a member of the Supreme Court—particularly then Associate Justice Marcelo Fernan, who later became Chief Justice— during his incumbency, would in effect be to circumvent and hence to run afoul of the constitutional mandate that members of the Court may be removed from office only by impeachment for and conviction of certain offenses listed in Article XI (2) of the Constitution.
The 1987 Constitution is crystal clear: it explicitly states that (1) an impeachable official can only be removed from office by impeachment; (2) that the sole power to impeach an official belongs to the House of Representatives; and (3) the sole court for impeachment trials is the Senate. Any attempt to remove the Chief Justice that does not fall under these parameters is patently unconstitutional. All attempts to unseat the Chief Justice via extra-constitutional means make a mockery of the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives and, subsequently, the impeachment trial in the Senate.
“We wish to reiterate that this latest action by the Solicitor General is part and parcel of the grand plan to harass, malign and humiliate the Chief Justice to force her to resign because her detractors know that the impeachment case, which was built on lies, won’t stand a chance in the Senate,” Sereno’s camp said.
The Chief Justice is ready to face trial and disprove all allegations against her before the Senate, which is the only body or institution that can remove her from office via two-thirds vote of all its members. She will not back down in her fight for truth and justice.
The best act of kindness to the Chief Justice is to transmit to the Senate the articles of impeachment expeditiously if they find probable cause in the committee and vote for impeachment in the plenary. The most cruel act they can inflict on the Filipino nation is to pressure the Supreme Court to substitute impeachment with quo warranto. Why are they afraid of a Senate trial? Sereno’s camp said.
Prosecution panel formed
The House Committee on Justice has formed an 11-man House prosecution panel ahead of a vote the by the Justice panel on whether of there is probable cause to pursue the impeachment complaint before the Senate.
The Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is also ready for transmittal to the Senate which will act as an impeachment court.
A highly placed source privy to the impeachment process said members of the prosecution panel will be named before the House goes on a Holy Week break.
“From forty names, it is now significantly reduced to less than fifteen names,” the House source said.
Last Sunday, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House committee on justice, bared that he and House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas will be named to the prosecution panel.
The source said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez will be the manager of the prosecution panel.
Umali said he will be the lead prosecutor.
The said those likely to be named in the prosecution panel are: Deputy Speaker and South Cotabato Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez, Ako Bicol party-list Re. Alfredo Garbin, Compostella Valley Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga, ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera, 1-Ang Edukasyon party-list Rep. Salvador Belaro, SAGIP party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon and Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso.
Oaminal, Leachon and Veloso, vice-chairmen of the House committee on justice are also expected to be named as prosecutors.
Tugna and Agabas are being considered for being part of a previous impeachment that ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona who was convicted by the Senate Impeachment Court in May 2012.
Earlier reports also claimed that Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep.Gwendolyn Garcia could be named as spokeswoman of the House prosecution panel.
Quo warranto precedent warned
Senate leaders, meanwhile, warned against the legal consequences of the quo warranto petition.
Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said such move, if entertained and acted favorably by the high tribunal, will open the same process to other impeachable officials, including the President.
“It’s a slippery slope. They must be prepared to accept the same petition for all impeachable officers,” he said.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III acceded to the assertions of his colleague adding it will “also weaken the Senate in the process.”
“In effect, it is not only impeachment conviction which removes from office these high ranking officials, meron pa palang ibang paraan, which is not obvious from the Constitution,” he added.
Pimentel himself expressed apprehensions on the legal move of Soliticor General Jose Calida although he admitted that there’s no barring the latter in filing such petition, which seeks to nullify Sereno’s appointment.
Pimentel stopped short of calling what he descrined as “very unusual” move of Calida as unconstitutional.
“Under the Constitution, the meaning of the provision literally is that once in a position, the high ranking government officials can only be removed from their positions through impeachment. So if you invent some other proceeding which will result in the removal from office, then that should violate that provision in the Constitution,” he said.
“Let me express the apprehension that the moment the SC entertains and rules on this – that is has the power to, in effect, dismiss the Chief Justice – that same rule applies to them. That same rule will apply to heads of various constitutional bodies, including the COA (Commission on Audit), Comelec (Commission on Elections), the Vice President and even to the President, because these are all impeachable officers, who can now be subject to a quo warranto petition. This is a slippery slope that can set a precedent. Extra care must be exercised by the Supreme Court. But as I’ve said, the ball is in teir court and it is up to them to decide,” Drilon, in a separate interview, said.
Angie M. Rosales

Impeach articles vs Sereno drafted

Monday, 05 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines


The House committee on justice has started drafting the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno that will be transmitted to the Senate for trial as panel chairman Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said a conviction on the Supreme Court (SC) head is almost certain.

He said the draft of the articles of impeachment against Sereno will be ready even before the scheduled vote on Thursday on probable cause on the impeachment complaint.
Sereno, in a speech in Baguio City last Friday, asked the House to allow her day in court “or admit that there is no probable cause” in the complaint against her.
Umali, in a radio interview, said if Sereno is confident she will win the case, “the more that we are confident that she will be convicted.”
Umali said Sereno’s supposedly unsound “psychiatric and psychological makeup” make her claims unreliable. Umali said hia claim on the mental capacity of the magistrate was based on the testimony of an expert witness at a recent House impeachment hearing.
“It appears in her persona, in her psychiatric and psychological makeup, attesting that she may have mood swings. All of those were revealed (in the House hearing),” Umali said.
He added that even Sereno’s peers at the High Court manifested “aversion” to the chief justice with some saying that she was “inhuman” or that she is mentally dishonest or a usurper. “Even if we grant that she has a strong case, how can she return to a court where its 13 members have an aversion to her?” Umali said.

Umali was referring to the unprecedented joint statement of 13 SC justices which stated that a “consensus” was reached that Sereno should take an “indefinite leave” from her post.
Impeach document tackled
Umali disclosed the draft of the articles of impeachment was part of the agenda during a meeting of the panel’s legal team last week.
“The discussion of the four grounds to impeach her is important so what is now being done is to organize the articles of impeachment,” he said.
Lawyer-complainant Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon has included 27 allegations in his impeachment complaint against Sereno, divided into four grounds, including: culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.
Umali expressed belief that all allegations, except one, have sufficient evidence to be included in the articles of impeachment.
“There were some points that overlap. So in the 27 allegations, what will come out in the final document will not necessarily be 27 grounds. We’ll see what will be included. It seems that all have been backed by evidence except for the Muntinlupa judges,” he said.
Gadon has accused Sereno of supposedly ordering Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court judges not to issue a warrant of arrest against Senator Leila De Lima over drug charges.
The judges referred to in the complaint have denied the allegation that they received an order from Sereno regarding the issue.
Umali said the justice panel is also preparing the list of members in the panel of prosecutors for the possible Senate impeachment trial.
He said that at least 40 lawmakers are being considered for the team, and that the panel would review the qualifications and litigation of experience of the would-be prosecutors.
Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who played a key role in the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, will “definitely” be part of the prosecution team, he said.
11-man House prosec team
Umali, who is himself part of the Corona impeachment team, he has started forming the 11-man House prosecution panel from the names of more than
40 lawmakers.
Corona was convicted by the Senate Impeachment Court in May 2012 for unexplained wealth.
Umali said there are 40 lawmakers who are in the list of possible prosecutors but would prefer those who have experience in graft and psychiatry.
“We will choose somebody who has experience on graft, or even in psychiatric (evaluation),” said Umali.
Umali, the incoming lead prosecutor, said he and Fariñas, are shoo-in for
the 11-man House prosecution panel.
A lawmaker who refused to be named said that Umali will also tap at least three of his vice-chairmen in the justice panel including Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon and Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso who is a former associate justice of the Court of Appeals (CA).
The source also said that Umali is also considering tapping former members of the prosecution team during the Corona impeachment trial like Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna and Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas.
The other members of the prosecution team in the Corona impeachment
who were no longer members of the 17th Congress include Dasmariñas City Mayor Elpidio “Pidi” F. Barzaga, former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri J. Colmenares, ex-Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. who is then the lead prosecutor, and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi B. Aggabao.
Two other members of the Corona prosecution team, Dinagat Islands Rep.
Kaka Bag-ao and Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza are not welcomed in this
latest impeachment trial being part of the opposition bloc, the source said.
Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, who has been ordered removed from Congress by the Ombudsman for grave misconduct, could be named as spokesperson of the House panel.
Anticipation builds up
Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said that the chief justice is looking forward to her day in the Senate impeachment court.
Deinla said that Sereno is ready to prove that the allegations against her are not true.
“Her wish is simple: ‘give me my day at the Senate’ and she is ready to prove that the allegations against her are baseless and not true,” Deinla said. 
Deinla also said that some of the charges like the tax evasion and psychological incapacity issue, which is now being pursued by the House Justice panel, are new and not part of the impeachment case.
The Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP), following a hearing by the justice panel on Sereno’s alleged failure to pass the psychological exam given by the Judicial and Bar Council said that no one “passes” or “fails” a psychological examimation.


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