MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte’s committee on Thursday took up the recent ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, eyeing a stricter provision in the new federal constitution to ensure no impeachable officer will again be removed by any other means, one of its members said.
Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. said he pushed the proposal in the consultative committee meeting, insisting ousting Sereno through a quo warranto petition was “a wrong move.”
“That’s why I’m insisting, and we’re discussing it today, na siguraduhin natin na 'yung proseso to remove the officials mentioned in the constitution shall be done only by impeachment,” he told ABS-CBN News.
(That's why I'm insisting and we're discussing it today that we will ensure that the process to remove officials mentioned in the constitution shall be done only by impeachment.)
(So that it's clear.)
Though the provision in the present constitution was “clear,” he said it could still be reworded to preclude any possibility of removing such officials other than by impeachment.
NOT AN EXCUSE
The Supreme Court, in a majority ruling handed down on May 11, justified Sereno's expulsion, saying the 1987 Constitution only states that top officials such as chief magistrates “may be removed from office on impeachment.”
The “permissive term ‘may,’” the ruling said, “denotes discretion and cannot be construed as having a mandatory effect.”
“That’s not an excuse,” said Pimentel, a lawyer. “Wala namang sinasabi ang chief justice maaaring tanggalin by quo warranto.”
(That's not an excuse. It did not say the chief justice may be removed by quo warranto.)
Voting 9-5, the high court ruled that a quo warranto action, which questions an official’s qualification, was a proper remedy to remove the chief justice.
Sereno allegedly failed to meet the constitutional requirement of “integrity” for failing to submit the required number of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth when she applied for the job in 2012.