Ateneo president: Junk quo warranto vs Sereno, let impeachment unfold

MANILA, Philippines – The president of the Ateneo de Manila University on Saturday, April 14, urged the Supreme Court to junk the quo warranto petition against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying that impeachment is the right process to seek accountability.

In a memorandum to the Ateneo community on Saturday, April 14, Father Jose Ramon Villarin SJ said that resorting to a quo warranto petition to remove Sereno "circumvents the clear dictates of the Constitution."

"Let us allow the impeachment to unfold, to guarantee the impeachable officer due process of fundamental law," said Villarin. 

"We ask them to let the right process take us to the truth. At this point, the legal and proper process is impeachment and not quo warranto. We thus categorically call on the Supreme Court to dismiss the quo warranto petition filed against the Chief Justice," he added.

In March, the House committee on justice approved the articles of impeachment against Sereno, after months of hearings on the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. The articles of impeachment will taken up in the House plenary when Congress resumes session next month.

"The Chief Justice herself recognizes the propriety of the impeachment process and her responsibility to answer the charges raised against her," said Villarin. "We all stand to benefit from allowing the impeachment to proceed because it will show us the primary importance of the law and teach all who wield power that no one is above the law."

Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the quo warranto petition against Sereno due to missing Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) when she was nominated for the chief justice position in 2012. (READ: 'Litany of falsehoods?' The trouble with Sereno's SALNs

Sereno faced her colleagues on Tuesday, April 10, for oral arguments on the quo warranto petition. 

'Dismay, disappointment'

Villarin expressed alarm that Sereno's fellow justices are deciding on her fate as Chief Justice.

"It should alarm us when several justices who will decide on whether the Chief Justice has sufficiently complied with the requirement are among those who have accused her of wrongdoing in that regard, during hearings conducted by Congress, thus effectively prejudging the matter. How will justice and fairness now prevail?" he said.

Villarin then echoed the university's "dismay and disappointment at how vicious and malicious the search for accountability has become."

"We ask the justices of the Supreme Court to pause and discern carefully the damage their actions have inflicted on themselves and on the whole of our democratic society," he said. (READ: Quo warranto vs Sereno impairs integrity of SC – Caguioa)

Villarin emphasized that the spirit of democracy "depends crucially not only on the independence of each branch of government and the ability of each branch to be co-equal to and vanguards of one another, but also on the integrity of each."

The Supreme Court's main focus, he continued, "should always be to keep the freedoms of each person inviolable and sacred."

"To do so requires that the Supreme Court justices remain impartial as Lady Justice is blind to the forces of wealth or power. To do so requires our justices to be faithful only to the law. When this very fundamental belief or practice is threatened, it puts an entire nation at risk," he said.

"When we promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, we ask God to help us. May God help our people and our democracy. May God help the justices of our Supreme Court," Villarin added. – Michael Bueza/