House to await resolution of Sereno motion for reconsideration before plenary vote

MANILA, Philippines – Now that the Supreme Court (SC) has ousted Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice, what happens to the pending articles of impeachment against her at the House of Representatives?

Lawmakers will not render it moot and academic just yet, according to House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.

Fariñas said the House will wait for the SC’s decision on the motion for reconsideration the Sereno camp plans to file after the High Court voted 8-6 to grant the quo warranto petition seeking to remove her on Friday, May 11.  

“Out of respect to a co-equal [branch] that has ruled that it has jurisdiction over the matter of the legality of the appointment of respondent Sereno, the HOR should wait for the resolution of the motion for reconsideration, if one is filed,” Fariñas told reporters.  

“The committee on rules will wait for the final resolution of the Supreme Court on the matter of the appointment of respondent Sereno, before it brings the matter for consideration of Plenary. Under our rules, the committee on rules has 10 session days from receipt of the Report of the Committee on Justice to calendar it for  consideration by the House,” he added. 

The House justice committee approved the articles of impeachment against Sereno in March, after holdings months-long hearings. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wanted the House to vote on it at the plenary once Congress resumes session this month.

But the SC's decision to grant the quo warranto petition against Sereno would change the House's plans.

Fariñas said the House will consider the SC’s decision on Sereno’s planned motion for reconsideration as the final basis for the plenary vote.  

“The sole purpose of impeachment proceeding is the removal of an officer from office. If such officer is no longer holding that office, the impeachment proceeding obviously becomes moot and academic,” he said.

Fariñas refused to give his comment on the SC ruling itself. Alvarez, however, praised the decision.

“It’s very encouraging that we have a Supreme Court that adheres strictly to the rule of law,” the Speaker told Rappler in a text message.

Alvarez's position is in sharp contrast to his party mate and counterpart in the Senate, who asserted the Senate's constitutional mandate to remove an impeachable officer through the process provided under the 1987 Charter. (READ: Senators on Sereno ouster: 'Black day for justice')

“The Supreme Court is supreme in a lot of things but not in everything. In impeachment matters the Supreme Court is not supreme, because the Senate is the one and only impeachment court,” said Senate president Aquilino Pimentel III.

Opposition lawmakers also said the SC committed “hara kiri” and bludgeoned the integrity and independence of the judiciary by ousting Sereno. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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