Quo warranto remedy applicable to public officers, says retired SC justice

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Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno

A RETIRED associate justice of the Supreme Court on Thursday said the legal remedy of quo warrranto could be used against public officers, including impeachable officials.

“Quo warranto is a process that attacks the validity of the title of a person to a public office… It can be used to question the right of the public officer to continue holding a public office if there is an irregularity in the title to the public office,” retired associate justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura said in a press briefing on the Constitutional Commission, whose subcommittee on the structure of the federal government he heads.

If the quo warranto proved the position invalid, Mr. Nachura said the public official was not “removed” but it would appear that “there was no valid appointment in the first place.”

But he declined to comment directly on the ongoing quo warranto case filed by Solicitor-General Jose C. Calida against Chief Justice Maria Loudes P.A. Sereno.

Also on Thursday, Ms. Sereno’s camp in a statement quoted a spokesman of hers, lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, as saying, “There is no allegation in the petition that the Chief Justice has any such ill-gotten wealth.”

“We have to remember that CJ Corona himself admitted that he had US$2.4 million and his defense centered on his interpretation that he was not required to declare his dollar deposits because of the confidentiality of foreign accounts under the Foreign Currency Deposit Act,” Lacanilao said regarding Ms. Sereno’s impeached predecessor, Renato C. Corona, who died four years after he was convicted by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

Mr. Lacanilao pointed out further that Mr. Corona also did not declare P80 million in local currency deposits as he claimed the funds were commingled, mostly belonging to his children and wife’s family corporation, the Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc.

“One cannot draw parallels between the two chief justices because their cases are entirely different from each other. The difference is monumental,” Mr. Lacanilao said.

According to Mr. Lacanilao, statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) are only relevant to the question of integrity if the issue is ill-gotten wealth.

The statement by the Sereno camp also pointed out that nine of her SALNs at the University of the Philippines (UP) had already been recovered aside from the 2002 SALN found in her 201 file at the university and her 1998 SALN with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The statement said Mr. Calida himself admitted that he had secured from UP records the other SALNs of the Chief Justice for the years 1985, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997. The records did not include the 1989 SALN that Ms. Sereno had recently retrieved from her files. — with Camille A. Aguinaldo