House to wait for SC decision on Sereno before impeachment

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 06 2018 01:00 PM | Updated as of Mar 06 2018 02:44 PM

The House of Representatives will vote on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in May, as congressmen prefer to wait for a Supreme Court ruling on petitions questioning her qualifications.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who was among the first to suggest the quo warranto petition, expressed belief the Supreme Court will grant the plea filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

"Pwede hintayin, pwede. Hindi kaya lang nagmamadali si Sereno kasi sabi niya umpisahan na natin. Sabi ko nga, mag-enjoy muna sa bakasyon," he said.

"Mangyayari kasi diyan kapag halimbawa na-grant yung SC ng quo warranto, in-invalidate yung appointment, ano i-impeach namin? Wala na," he added.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas said as chairman of the Committee on Rules, he believes that if there is a "serious challenge on the legitimacy of the officer in question," the House should wait.

"This will be utmost importance by the SC. That will be resolved in a month’s time. Di naman magtatagal yan," he said, adding that House rules of impeachment allow them to wait for an SC ruling.

Sereno is accused of misdeclaring her wealth and violating court rules, which amount to culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes including under impeachment rules.

The House Justice Committee is expected to vote on probable cause on the impeachment complaint this Thursday, to be followed by another vote next week on the approval of the committee report and proposed articles of impeachment that will be submitted to the full House.

Fariñas said there will be no vote by the plenary on the impeachment before it adjourns for the summer break beginning March 22. He added he also has to consider the preparedness of the Senate, where it will be submitted for trial.

He explained the quo warranto proceeds independently of the impeachment so it cannot be used to stop the impeachment proceedings.

“Quo warranto attacks the validity of the appointment. 'Yung impeachment are for acts committed by the impeachable officer. Magkahiwalay yan," he said.

If the SC invalidates the appointment, Farinas said Sereno can no longer go back to her former job as associate justice because she has "abandoned" it.

“She can be reappointed if she will be reappointed. If she loses that legitimacy of the office of CJ, there is no office to go back dahil in-abandon na niya yung associate justice," he said.

Farinas also dispelled arguments that Sereno validly complied with the requirements for appointment.

“Makipag-argue sila sa SC. It's a pending case already sa SC. The Constitution is what the SC says it to be. This is a matter that will be resolved by the SC."

Opposition lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman disagreed.

"It is a joke for Solicitor General Jose Calida to claim that it was only recently during the impeachment proceedings that the government learned that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno failed to submit all of her prior years’ SALNs when she was a professor in the UP College of Law," he said in a statement.

Lagman cited that Calida asserts that the one-year prescriptive period must be reckoned from this “belated discovery.”

"This is a convenient ruse to avoid the inevitable that the filing of the subject quo warranto petition against Sereno has long expired under the Rules of Court. It is on record that Sereno asked the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to excuse her from producing her prior SALNs, and the JBC proceeded to include her in the shortlist of nominees for appointment as Chief Justice. From said time during the JBC deliberations or upon her appointment or assumption to office in August 2012, the one-year prescriptive period started to run," he said.

Lagman buttresseD his argument with jurisprudence, citing the case of Agcaoili vs. Suguitan, where the Supreme Court "debunked the plea of the government that the statute of limitation cannot be invoked against the State in quo warranto proceedings."

Farinas meantime demurred when asked IF he is inclined to reprise his role as impeachment prosecutor.

“Dami nang trabaho. Gusto ko if I will be allowed. You have to understand when we prosecute, we're looking at July. Andiyan na rin budget, we'll be having the budget. If there's federalism, dami rin namin hinahawakan so tutulong tulong na lang," he said.

Alvarez also demurred when asked the same question. “Wala akong abilidad diyan," he said.