By Dane Angelo M. Enerio
THE INTEGRATED Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse its May 11 decision that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno from her post, saying “the reversal of the assailed decision, which has taints of political biases, is of the essence to preserve the Rule of Law.”
In a landmark ruling, the SC voted 8-6 in favor of Solicitor-General Jose C. Calida’s quo warranto petition and voided Ms. Sereno’s 2012 appointment as chief justice for failing to submit her complete Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) as a requirement for the post. IBP, the mandatory bar organization, and other groups flagged the decision as unconstitutional.
In its 14-page intervention, IBP reiterated its stand that only impeachment can remove an impeachable official like Ms. Sereno and that the high court should have “(exercised) judicial restraint to uphold the Rule of Law” with regards to Mr. Calida’s petition.
“With due respect, the Honorable Court’s narrowly drawn ruling shows the use of the law to pursue a desired result, that is, the ouster of the Chief Justice. This erodes, if not demolishes, the Rule of Law for which all members of the Bar are sword to uphold,” read the petition, filed two weeks after Ms. Sereno submitted her own reversal plea on May 30.
“The issue of whether or not Chief Justice Sereno must be ousted from her office is a political question which can only be resolved though the political remedy of impeachment,” IBP also said.
BusinessWorld reported on March 24 that IBP filed before the SC an intervention praying for dismissal of Mr. Calida’s petition using similar arguments.
In its latest petition, IBP said, “while it is acknowledged that Section 8(1), Article VIII of the Constitution places the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council) under this Honorable Court’s supervisory authority, such authority does not extend to the modification or replacement of acts of those it supervises.”
“Further, a supervising authority cannot substitute its own judgment for those made by the subordinate as that amounts to an exercise of control,” the group added.
“Despite the number of cases laying down the parameters of supervisory authority, we submit that this Honorable Court did just the opposite and went beyond its authority. It made independent findings of fact, replaced the JBC’s finding with its own, settled the status of the validity of Respondent’s appointment, and caused the ouster of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” IBP also said.
Citing several court decisions which ruled that the Chief Justice can only be removed by way of impeachment, IBP said “there is nothing in the Assailed Decision that explicitly reverses the foregoing previous disquisitions of the Honorable Court en banc.”
The group further pointed out: “The Honorable Court committed (a) reversible error in making a factual determination of whether or not respondent has submitted her SALNs for the years that she has been in government service, contrary to the principle that the Honorable Court is not a Trier of Facts.”
“It is well-settled that the Honorable Court is not a trier of facts. It is not its duty to embark on an examination and evaluation of evidence in cases before it,” IBP also said.
“The Honorable Court sidestepped this age old rule and took on the role of a trial court, when it received evidence on the issue of respondent’s alleged non-submission of her SALNs and engaged in an in-depth evaluation of such evidence on record. What is worse, the Honorable Court failed to maintain the cold neutrality of an impartial judge when it engaged in its own evidence-gathering expedition and sought to supplement the evidence already on record.”
The IBP also prayed for the issuance of a resolution denying the quo warranto petition against Ms. Sereno.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio on June 8 said the court could rule on Ms. Sereno’s motion for reconsideration by this month.
Sought for comment, Ms. Sereno said at the sidelines of a student forum, “hindi ko pa nababasa (I have not read the petition,)” but added that she was “grateful” for the intervention.
By Dane Angelo M. Enerio