Supreme Court magistrates will vote on the quo warranto case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno earlier than the original date agreed upon.
A well-placed ABS-CBN News source bared the voting will now be on May 11, instead of the original May 17 schedule. The voting will coincide with the submission of separate concurring and dissenting opinions.
The source bared the move will ensure that no news leaks will happen on the stand of the respective magistrates. Once separate opinions are in, the position and vote of the magistrates who wrote these opinions would already be known and sticking to the May 17 original schedule will likely lead to leaks ahead of the actual voting.
Associate Justice Noel Tijam, the justice to whom the case was raffled to, was set to circulate his final draft decision on Thursday, April 26, instead of the original April 23 target.
Tijam’s first 60-page draft grants the OSG plea, declaring Sereno’s appointment on August 24, 2012 null and void due to her failure to meet the eligibility requirement set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) upon her application for the top judicial post in 2012.
The draft decision states the order is "immediately executory," even though Sereno may still file a motion for reconsideration.
The petition was initiated by Solicitor General Jose Calida who has argued that Sereno must be immediately ousted for “unlawfully holding the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court” for failure to submit the required Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) under oath for a period of 10 years preceding her application for Chief Justice.
Despite her being an impeachable officer, Calida insists the beleaguered chief magistrate may be ousted through quo warranto proceedings since “[t]he Constitution does not include ineligibility to public position as a ground for impeachment.” Calida stressed that impeachment is intended for public officials with a valid appointment.
“A quo warranto ousts a public officer on the ground of ineligibility or failing to meet the qualifications for such public office, at the time of his appointment, while impeachment removes a validly appointed or elected impeachable officer upon conviction of any of the impeachable offences committed while in office,” the OSG told the high court.
Sereno, who is facing a separate impeachment case before the House of Representatives, submitted only three SALNs (2009, 2010, 2011) to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) when she applied for Chief Justice.
The OSG pointed out that Sereno’s 2009 SALN is invalid for having been “belatedly filed on June 22, 2012,” while her 2011 SALN was not signed by her husband. Further, Sereno, upon her application for SC Associate Justice, submitted a “fabricated” SALN, for 2006, according to the OSG.
Her 2006 SALN bears no stamp receipt from the University of the Philippines, was only signed on July 27, 2010, the same day it was submitted to the JBC, and was not notarized, the OSG explained.
“Sereno, therefore, is not a person of proven integrity. Her continued occupation of the esteemed office of the Chief Justice in unlawful,” the OSG argued.
Sereno urged the high court to junk the plea, maintaining that she may be removed only through impeachment proceedings. She has repeatedly said the proper venue to challenge her appointment is the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.