By Charmaine A. Tadalan
SEVEN of the eight Supreme Court associate justices who ruled in favor of the quo warranto case that ousted Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno as chief justice now face impeachment complaints filed by minority lawmakers.
Four of these associate justices are aspirants for the post of Chief Justice. The eighth justice who voted against Ms. Sereno, Ombudsman Samuel L. Martires, was not included in the complaints as he is no longer in the high court.
“Charged with culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust are Justices Teresita L. de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Andres B. Reyes, Francis H. Jardeleza, Noel G. Tijam, and Alexander G. Gesmundo,” Albay Representative Edcel C. Lagman told reporters in a press briefing.
Also among the complainants are Magdalo Rep. Gary C. Alejano, Ifugao Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr., and Akbayan Rep. Tomasito S. Villarin.
The complainants said the “petition for quo warranto or any other mode of removal is anathema to the unequivocal mandate of the Constitution that the power to impeach is solely vested with the Congress.”
Mr. Lagman said “the respondent justices violated the unmistakable context and intent [of the Constitution].”
The complaints also read in part: “De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Tijam and Jardeleza are also charged with betrayal of public trust for their refusal to inhibit themselves in the adjudication of the quo warranto petition despite their patent and continuing ill will, bias, and prejudice against Sereno as shown by their respective testimonies before the House Committee on Justice and their statements during the oral arguments in the quo warranto petition.”
“[The] unethical ulterior motives induced Justices…to oust Sereno. With the removal of Sereno, a vacancy was created in the position of Chief Justice,” the complaints also read.
Mr. Baguilat for his part said, “Quo warranto has a legitimate function, but these justices obviously used this legal tool to wage their personal vendetta against former Chief Justice Serreno. If we don’t strive to stop them now, it will happen again.”
Among the justices being considered for the Supreme Court’s top position are Ms. De Castro, Mr. Bersamin, Mr. Reyes and Mr. Peralta. The complainants, however, said the impeachment case may “disqualify” the applicants from the position.
But sought for comment, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said, “My personal opinion is, the mere filing of an impeachment complaint, which is not the same as a criminal or administrative complaint in the ordinary sense, will not have any effect on the nomination of the four SC justices for the CJ position.”
Also sought for comment, Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Abdiel Dan S. Elijah Fajardo said that while the group maintains its position that the quo warranto decision to oust Ms. Sereno is an “unconstitutional method,” the complainant-lawmakers now have the “burden of proving that the decision of the Justices was not an ordinary error in judgment.”
“They have to show that it was the product of a malicious conspiracy to sidestep the Constitution upon the behest of the executive department, in abject surrender of judicial independence,” Mr. Fajardo told BusinessWorld in a phone message.
By Charmaine A. Tadalan