'You can question anybody': Ex-SolGen warns vs Sereno ouster via quo warranto

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 07 2018 11:17 AM | Updated as of Nov 04 2018 08:51 PM

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MANILA - The Supreme Court will open a can of worms if it invalidates Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's appointment by granting the quo warranto petition of Solicitor General Jose Calida, his predecessor said Wednesday.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said granting the quo warranto petition, which seeks to invalidate Sereno's appointment as Chief Justice due to her alleged failure to file some of her SALNs before the Judicial and Bar Council, is "incompatible with the Constitution."

"If the court rules that way, it opens up a lot of potential can of worms. Everybody’s appointment can be subjected to that kind of scrutiny, even non-constitutional requirements," he told ANC's Headstart.

"You can question the election of the president by looking at certain filings he made before the Commission on Elections or whether he filed the SALN before. You can question anybody else’s appointment or election if that person is an impeachable official," he said.

Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier said Sereno was "unlawfully holding" her post due to her alleged failure to fully disclose her wealth as required by the JBC. The quo warranto petition also accused the chief justice of "usurpation of a public office."

Hilbay, however, said the JBC can adjust its requirements per person or per office as it deems necessary. The JBC is a Constitutionally mandated body that recommends appointees to the Judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman for the President's perusal.

Only the requirements set out by the Constitution, such as age, citizenship, and years of practice cannot be relaxed, he said.

"If the president appoints someone who is 35 years of age, not a natural born citizen, that’s the time that you can file before the Supreme Court and question. Otherwise, all the other violations would have to be filed before the Senate," he said.

“We shouldn’t extend or expand the meaning of the Constitution to such absurd levels simply to be able to come up with a desired political result. The Chief Justice not being very popular, not being a very good PR person, those are not grounds for removal,” he added.

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 included under impeachment rules.

The Supreme Court has given Sereno 10 days to answer the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, which asked the tribunal to void her appointment.

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Hilbay said the Supreme Court is giving Sereno "an opportunity to respond" when it asked the chief magistrate to answer the petition.

Sereno is currently on indefinite leave to prepare for a possible impeachment trial in the Senate.