Senators oppose final SC decision on Sereno ouster

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators on Tuesday, June 19, opposed the Supreme Court’s final decision affirming the ouster of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition.

Voting 8-6, the High Court denied Sereno's motion for reconsideration. With the same vote in May, the SC en banc granted the quo warranto petition to remove Sereno from office on the basis of an invalid appointment.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon maintained that the decision is a “slippery slope” as it opens the possibility for impeachable officials to be removed via the same petition.

“This is a slippery slope now any officer who is subject to impeachment can now be removed through quo warranto petition,” Drilon told reporters.

Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV slammed the SC decision, attributing it to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Duterte, once again, succeeded in destroying another bulwark of our fragile democracy, the Supreme Court. Now, only half of the Senate stands in his way from completely installing his ruthless and corrupt authoritarian regime,” Trillanes said in a statement.

Senator Joel Villanueva also criticized the decision, saying the Constitution clearly states that the Senate has the sole jurisdiction on impeachable officials.

“From the very beginning I have stressed my position that the appropriate process to discuss the removal of CJ Sereno is through an impeachment process. Clearly according to the Constitution, the Senate has the sole responsibility in exacting accountability to judicial appointees or impeachable officers,” Villanueva said.

Meanwhile, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito sided with the Supreme Court, saying the SC decision should be respected because it is now the rule of law.

“While I strongly maintain my view that Congress has the exclusive constitutional duty to impeach and try impeachable officials, I also believe in the rule of law. And we cannot correct a mistake with another mistake. Rather than interfere with the affairs of the judiciary, we are duty-bound to respect its decision,” Ejercito said.

In the same breath, however, he hoped that the SC would revisit the ruling and “rectify the decision which effectively encroached upon the prerogative of the legislative department,”

Sense of the Senate vs quo warranto

Despite the unfavorable ruling, Drilon said the proposed resolution expressing the sense of the Senate could still be approved. However, he expected the majority bloc to oppose it, citing the ground that it is moot and academic.

“I’m not surprised. It’s difficult to reverse a decision rendered by the majority. But having said that, technically puwede pa rin namin ipasa (we can still pass the) sense of the Senate resolution which expresses the sense of the Senate in so far as quo warranto is concerned. There’s nothing wrong with expressing an opinion,” Drilon told reporters in an interview.

Former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel III, the chamber’s top leader at the time the resolution was filed, believed otherwise. Pimentel was among the 14 senators who filed the measure stating that the Senate has sole power over impeachable officers. 

“Resolution simply states the sense of the Senate on a certain matter. It is not meant for any other purpose. Hence, it can be passed anytime depending on the sense of the majority," Pimentel said.

To this, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said: “Yes, it becomes moot. Besides they admitted in the interpellation that it will be used [in] SC.” –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.