‘A different crisis’ looms if Senate clashes with SC on Sereno quo warranto

MANILA, Philippines – A “different crisis” looms as talk about the potential ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the Senate possibly questioning its validity gains ground.

Kakaibang kaguluhan na naman yun (It will be another crisis), there will again be questions on the provisions in the Constitution,” Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) national president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said on Monday, May 7, at the “Free the Courts” forum held at the University of the Philippines (UP). (READ: As quo warranto decision nears, Sereno hits SC for 'unfairness')

Context. Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that the upper chamber may be able to vote on the validity of the decision, should the Supreme Court (SC) really oust Sereno via quo warranto. That petition seeks to remove her from office by questioning the validity of her appointment.

It would be the Senate asserting itself as the body which has jurisdiction to remove an impeachable officer like Sereno via an impeachment trial. But such a move won't be so easy, said Fajardo.

“I don’t know how they can do that because the objective of an impeachment trial is the removal of an impeachable officer. So if the impeachable officer...has been removed, the proceedings in the Senate will have to be moot and academic,” Fajardo said.

Scenarios. But there are windows of opportunity to be considered, Fajardo explained.

News reports said the SC will vote on the petition on Friday, May 11, when the en banc meets. The House of Representatives, which still handles the impeachment proceedings at this point, will resume session on May 15.

Numbers do not seem to be on Sereno’s side, as she herself had admitted that up to 6 justices had allegedly already shown bias against her. She needs at least 7 votes to get a tie.

The period during which Sereno may file a motion for reconsideration (MR) may give the Senate basis to assert jurisdiction, provided of course that within the appeal period the House had already impeached Sereno and transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.

Parties are typically given 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration, after which the SC would take time to resolve it.

“If it so happens that indeed the Chief Justice is ousted by quo warranto, the MR will still be running, so at the time the decision will not be final and if the Senate makes a determination upon receiving the articles of impeachment that it is assuming jurisdiction to the exclusion then that is possible,” Fajardo said.

Scenario: If SC ousts Sereno on May 11 and she files a motion for reconsideration, and during the appeal period the House impeaches her and transmits it to the Senate, there would be a window for Senate to assert its jurisdiction. But Fajardo says: “Panibagong kaguluhan yan” pic.twitter.com/XmBySuKTZS — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) May 7, 2018

But Fajardo has always said it would be an altogether different crisis.

The quo warranto petition itself had prompted questions about the Constitution, and pushed Fajardo and other prominent lawyers to seek an investigation into threats to the judiciary’s independence.

Fajardo said that whatever the clashes may be, it will still be the SC which will have the last say.

“The recourse of the Chief Justice would end with the denial of the MR in the Supreme Court as far as the judicial processes are concerned,” Fajardo said. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

image