Ousted Chief Justice Sereno slams decision to unseat her

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Sereno
Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. File photograph via Wikimedia Commons

Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has described the Supreme Court’s decision to unseat her as “unacceptable” and questioned the legality of the move.

In an interview with ABS-CBN news channel today (Friday, March 11), she said: “On so many levels this decision is unacceptable but I have to wait for and read the decision first.”

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She added that legal experts and constitutionalists believe that granting quo warranto against an impeachable official is unconstitutional.

“You cannot issue a quo warranto to remove an impeachable official and the system that judges you should not be the one who accuses you.”

Voting 8-6 today, the SC granted Solicitor General Jose Calida’s petition for quo warranto questioning Sereno’s qualification as the chief magistrate.

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The High Court said the decision was immediately executory and declared the position of the Chief Justice vacant.

Sereno said there must be a “strong force” that compelled the magistrates to vote as they did.

“I do not know why some of them voted that way. I treated many of them well, you really can’t think of the force that happened, what kind of strong force that was applied.

“It is really sad, I wished that this sad chapter of our history did not happen but maybe the Lord wanted the people to know the truth in the status of justice in our country.”

The decision to oust Sereno without an impeachment trial has been described as “a legal abomination,” by one of the Associate Justices who voted against today’s move.

“Even if the Chief Justice has failed our expectations, quo warranto, as a process to oust an impeachable officer and a sitting member of the Supreme Court is a legal abomination,” Marvic Leonen said in his dissenting opinion.

Leonen was one of the six who voted to dismiss the quo warranto petition.

“This petition should have been dismissed outright and not given [the] due course. It does not deserve space in judicial deliberation within our constitutional democratic space,” he added.

“It creates a precedent that gravely diminishes judicial independence and threatens the ability of this Court to assert the fundamental rights of our people. We render this Court subservient to an aggressive Solicitor General. We render those who present dissenting opinions unnecessarily vulnerable to powerful interests.”

The Malacañang has responded to the decision by saying the ruling was an “assertion of the supremacy of the fundamental law of the land.”

“The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the law,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“The High Court has spoken. Let us respect its decision granting the quo warranto petition as the proper remedy and the quo warranto petition ruling against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.” 

Roque added that the Supreme Court was also duty-bound to uphold the Constitution.

“The court ruling is likewise an assertion of the supremacy of the fundamental law of the land,” he said.

Sereno had been accused of failing to fully account for her wealth on taking up the position in 2012, and also of “lavish spending” on hotels and first-class flights, allegations she denies.

As we reported last month, the president urged Congress to speed up the impeachment bid against Sereno, describing her as his enemy.

TIMELINE: The Manila Bulletin has published a concise timeline of events leading to today’s decision. Read it here.

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