MANILA - Seven justices of the Supreme Court must inhibit in the petition questioning Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's qualification for her post, a lawmaker said Monday.
These associate justices "unconstitutionally attempted to oust" Sereno, said Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, without identifying the magistrates.
"After their conspiracy to unseat Sereno failed, the 7 justices succeeded in compelling Sereno to file an indefinite leave, which has no constitutional or legal anchorage," he said in a statement.
"The quo warranto petition gives the subject 7 justices the opportunity to pursue their scheme in removing the chief magistrate without waiting for the constitutional process of a Senate impeachment trial," he added.
In a second legal challenge against Sereno apart from the impeachment proceedings at Congress, the Office of the Solicitor General on Monday asked the Supreme Court to void her appointment through a quo warranto petition.
Lagman said Solicitor General Jose Calida "purposely chose to file the petition before the Supreme Court, which has become a hostile forum against Sereno."
Suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari, president of Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, also filed a quo warranto case against Sereno last month.
Sereno's lawyers said the Supreme Court should not entertain the quo warranto petition because it "has absolutely no basis in law and in the Constitution."
"The high tribunal should dismiss the petition outright on the basis that quo warranto is not a proper remedy. Under the 1987 Constitution, the Chief Justice may only be removed from office upon impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court," they said in a statement.
Calida's move was "part and parcel of the grand plan to harass, malign and humiliate the Chief Justice to force her to resign because her detractors know that the impeachment case, which was built on lies, won’t stand a chance in the Senate," they said.
"The Chief Justice is ready to face trial and disprove all allegations against her before the Senate, which is the only body or institution that can remove her from office via two-thirds vote of all its members. She will not back down in her fight for truth and justice," they said.
"The best act of kindness to the Chief Justice is to transmit to the Senate the articles of impeachment expeditiously if they find probable cause in the committee and vote for impeachment in the plenary. The most cruel act they can inflict on the Filipino nation is to pressure the Supreme Court to substitute impeachment with quo warranto," they added.
"Why are they afraid of a Senate trial?"
Lagman also said Sereno's appointment "complied with the basic requirements of the Constitution and no less than the Judicial and Bar Council endorsed her appointment to then President Benigno Aquino III."
"An appointment enjoys the presumption of validity and a proffered argument that it is void ab initio is not favored," he said. - report from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News