By Dane Angelo M. Enerio
ACTING Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio on Friday told reporters that he would abide with whatever the Supreme Court (SC) would rule on the quo warranto petition that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno last month, following the former top magistrate’s motion for reconsideration filed last May 30.
In a landmark ruling on May 11, the SC en banc voted 8-6 in favor of Solicitor-General Jose C. Calida’s quo warranto petition and voided the appointment of Ms. Sereno for failing to completely submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) as a requirement for the post.
Mr. Carpio, one of the dissenters, said in an ambush interview,”the Supreme Court decides, we must just follow.”
He pointed out: “I belong to the minority, I lost. But that’s it. You win, you lose. But you are governed by majority. That’s how democracy works and we just have to accept it because that’s how we can move on.”
Despite the ouster, Mr. Carpio said the SC was “functioning normally.”
“[W]e have been doing cases normally. Holding oral arguments normally, so we are doing our work normally,” Mr. Carpio said.
“We function normally because we are still 14 in the SC,” he explained.
Sought for comment on the attention the decision garnered, Mr. Carpio replied with, “we are used to that because every big case in the SC is controversial. Both sides project to media to we’re used to that already.”
He noted that some people may have started to doubt the independence of the SC following the divisiveness of the case.
Asked on the status of Ms. Sereno’s plea to reverse the court’s ruling that removed her from office, Mr. Carpio replied with, “we will decide hopefully this month.”
Subhead: Don’t drag Sereno in PIATCO case, spokesperson says
In a related development, Ms. Sereno should not dragged into the recent Court of Appeals (CA) decision that declared as illegal the fees government representatives charged in the arbitration case against Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO), according to Ms. Sereno’s lawyer, Anacleto Rei A. Lacanilao III.
“CJ Sereno is not a party to the case, which is between the government and PIATCO,” Mr. Lacanilao said in a statement released on Friday.
Ms. Sereno served as legal counsel for the government in the case against PIATCO, the builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, after the firm filed a complaint before the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Court of Arbitration for having its contract to operate the airport revoked.
“She was fired by (the) government as lawyer and she accepted the engagement in good faith. She was one of the lawyers that helped the government win the case against PIATCO,” Mr. Lacanilao said in the statement.
Over $6 million was paid to the legal team representing the Philippines, representing 25% of the $24 million PIATCO was ordered to pay the Philippines.
Ms. Sereno, then professor of the University of the Philippine’s faculty of law, received around P30 million for her work.
The payments were declared illegal in a CA resolution dated June 4, arguing the government violated Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) when it hired the team of lawyers without following proper procedure.
The resolution reinstated the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 213’s Aug. 29, 2014 decision that denied the enforcement of the awarded fees and reversed the appellate court’s decision dated Jan. 20, 2017 by its own 17th Division.
By Dane Angelo M. Enerio