MANILA - Solicitor General Jose Calida on Friday called on the Supreme Court to place Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno "on equal footing with other public servants" as he argued for the nullification of her appointment.
Defending his "quo warranto" petition against Sereno, Calida, in a memorandum to the SC, said the top magistrate must be ousted because her appointment was "void" from the start.
Calida said Sereno “cannot be excused from complying with the law” for failure to file and submit Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, a requirement when she applied for the chief justice post in 2012.
“If lowly court employees could be penalized for failing to file SALNs, there is no reason why she should be considered eligible for appointment to the highest post in the judiciary notwithstanding her abject failure to comply with the SALN requirement,” Calida said.
Sereno insisted that she could only be removed from office through impeachment.
Sereno, who is facing a separate impeachment case before the House of Representatives, submitted only 3 SALNs in 2009, 2010, 2011, when she applied for the top judicial post.
The requirement was for the submission of at least 10 SALNs covering a decade preceding her application for the top SC post.
Calida said Sereno’s 2009 SALN was invalid because it was filed in 2012 while her 2011 SALN was not signed by her husband. He also accused the top judge of fabricating her 2006 SALN, which was allegedly not notarized and signed only in 2010.
He also cited Sereno's own argument during her predecessor, Renato Corona's impeachment trial, wherein she said people who assume public office accept "burdens and obligations, together with its benefits."
Citing the ongoing poll protest between former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo, who, like Sereno, is an impeachable officer, Calida again defended its quo warranto plea as the proper means to oust Sereno outside the mode of impeachment.
“There is also an almost unanimous recognition that impeachment is not the only mode to remove impeachable officers,” Calida said.
“It is therefore unseemly for [Sereno] to select a part of the Constitution that favors her cause and feign ignorance of another part that does not…” he added.
Sereno, for violations of the Constitution and other laws, is thus “usurping” and “unlawfully” holding the position of Chief Justice, Calida argued.
In her earlier 77-page comment on Calida's petition, Sereno said it should be dismissed “for lack of jurisdiction and merit."
“To rule otherwise, and to preempt the impeachment process by summarily ousting the Chief Justice via quo warranto, would be tantamount to overthrowing the Constitution itself,” Sereno said.