Solicitor General Jose C. Calida on Tuesday, March 27, submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) his reply to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno’s comment on his quo warranto petition seeking to void her appointment.
“For the first time in the country’s history, the Solicitor General is asking this Honorable Court to remove a Chief Justice from office,” the 64-page reply sternly stated in its first lines. It added:
“The Solicitor General has chosen the path that until now has not been taken, that is to remove the Chief Justice from office.”
Mr. Calida filed his quo warranto petition last March 6, which urged the high court to void Ms. Sereno’s appointment for not fully submitting her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) as a requirement for the post.
In response, Ms. Sereno, who is also facing impeachment for allegedly not disclosing her complete wealth, on March 19 asked the SC to dismiss Mr. Calida’s petition for lack of merit and for lack of jurisdiction, saying primarily that she can only be removed from her post through impeachment.
The Solicitor General, for his part, argued in his new reply “the Constitution does not exclude quo warranto as a remedy to assail the validity of (Ms. Sereno’s) appointment as Chief Justice and cause her ouster from office.”
“Plainly stated, the 1987 Constitution does not state anywhere that impeachment is the sole means of removing an impeachable officer,” said the reply.
It added, among its many arguments: “her failure to file her SALNs in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution and relevant laws shows that she is not of proven integrity,” which Mr. Calida said was “an indispensable qualification for appointment to the Judiciary.”
He stressed “in view of Respondent’s failure to establish her integrity, declare the office of the Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines vacant.”
In addition to the arguments listed on his reply, Mr. Calida also pointed out several instances that “(revealed), that she did, in fact, commit a litany of falsehoods.”
Mr. Calida accused Ms. Sereno of filing her SALNs late, fabricating her 2006 SALN, and not declaring pieces of jewelry valued at P15,000 in her 1993 SALN.
In a press statement, the Chief Justice revealed that the JBC relaxed the SALN requirement for all applicants to the post including Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Associate Justice Teresita L. De Castro.
Mr. Carpio and Ms. De Castro were quick to clarify they submitted their required SALNs to the JBC. — Dane Angelo M. Enerio