MANILA—The Supreme Court ruling banishing Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno went against the intent of the constitution that such official can only be removed through impeachment, one of the charter’s framers said Tuesday.
Part of the justification to get rid of Sereno, a vocal critic of human rights abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte, was the constitutional provision saying members of the Supreme Court “may be removed from office on impeachment.”
This language in Article XI, Section 2 of the constitution “does not foreclose a quo warranto action against impeachment officers,” the majority decision said.
But lawyer Christian Monsod, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, said the same provision distinguished between impeachable officers and “all other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.”
The subsequent sentence, he said, was suggested by fellow commissioner Regalado Maambong because “removal by impeachment is supposed to be an extraordinary and more difficult way of removing these high officials.”
“Commissioner Maambong justified that insertion by saying that the constitution should be clear on who can be removed as ‘provided by law’ and those that can only be removed by impeachment,” Monsod told ABS-CBN News.
Monsod headed the committee on the accountability of public officers, which drafted the provision on impeachment.
In removing Sereno by granting a petition questioning her qualifications, the Supreme Court ruled that a quo warranto case could still be filed by the state even after a year “from the cause of such action.”
Monsod described as “specious” the solicitor general’s position that the state had the “imprescriptible right” to file a quo warranto petition under the principle that “no time runs against the king.”
“That is the lowest kind of reasoning and a blatant exhibition of arrogance,” he said.
“I’m very sorry to say this that the Supreme Court chose to abdicate its role as the last rampart in the protection of rights against state abuse.”