Sereno appointment 'tainted,' SolGen says during SC arguments

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2018 02:47 PM | Updated as of Apr 10 2018 09:12 PM

Solicitor General Jose Calida and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Composite.

MANILA- (UPDATE) Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday told Supreme Court magistrates that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should be removed from her post because her appointment was "tainted with invalidity."

Calida was defending his "quo warranto" petition to oust Sereno during oral arguments at the high court. The chief government lawyer had accused the Chief Justice of not fully disclosing her wealth.

"Sereno's assumption of the position of chief justice under the color of an executive appointment is a public wrong that can only be corrected by quo warranto," he said.

"Although she is an impeachable officer, she may thus be ousted from office despite her protestations. Even an impeachable officer can be subject of a quo warranto proceeding," he added.

Calida previously told the high court that his petition to oust Sereno was different from impeachment proceedings since the country's charter does not include ineligibility as a basis for impeachment.

“The Constitution does not include ineligibility to public position as a ground for impeachment. No one can be convicted for ineligibility. The sole purpose of impeachment proceedings is to hold a public officer accountable for wrongdoings committed in office," he said.

Calida had sought Sereno's removal from office, saying the Chief Justice was "unlawfully holding" her post due to her alleged failure to fully disclose her wealth.

The petition accused Sereno of "usurpation of a public office" as public officials are required under the law to file their statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN). 

The top government lawyer also alleged that Sereno should not have been appointed in the first place because she had not proven her integrity.

"Sereno is not qualified to be a member of this court let alone to lead it as its chief justice. She has not shown that she is a person of proven integrity which is an indispensable qualification for membership in the judiciary," he said.

"In all candor, the Filipino people deserve a better chief justice. The court must not allow a person who lacks integrity and has questionable qualifications to sit at the pinnacle of the judicial department," he added.

Calida's plea came as a House of Representatives panel deliberated on an impeachment complaint filed against Sereno also for alleged misdeclaration of wealth and violation of court procedures.

The mandatory submission was institutionalized as an offshoot of the ouster of Sereno’s predecessor, Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Sereno has urged the Supreme Court to dismiss Calida's petition, arguing that she can only be removed through impeachment proceedings.

Last month, the chief magistrate took a leave from her duties at the high court to prepare for a possible impeachment trial. She has repeatedly maintained that she will not step down.