Justices can't be impeached over Sereno decision, Alvarez says

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2018 12:15 AM

MANILA - The approval of the 8 Supreme Court justices of the quo warranto petition that ousted Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice is not a ground for impeachment, according to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. 

This is the personal opinion of Alvarez, who leads the chamber where impeachment complaints are initiated.

“I don't think so, in exercise of kasi separation of powers eh they acted within their powers as provided for by the Constitution," he said.

Alvarez was among the first to float the idea of ousting Sereno through quo warranto when the impeachment proceedings against the former chief justice showed that she did not file all of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) — a requirement of the Judicial and Bar Council.

Sereno allies have asked the House to send the impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial. 

They are also asking the House to impeach the 8 justices for granting the quo warranto for supposedly usurping Congress’ exclusive power of impeachment.

Alvarez, however, disagrees.

“Hindi, magkaiba 'yung issue eh. Opinyon nila 'yun, kami naman hindi kami sang-ayon sa opinyon," he said.

Alvarez repeated his position in the past that impeachment presupposes a valid appointment. 

However, a quo warranto maybe used against those whose appointments were invalid, he added. 

"Kagaya ng sinabi ko dati, yun naman impeachment 'yung presupposes a valid appointment, 'yun namang quo warranto ang kinukwestyon ang 'yung mismong validity ng appointment kaya magkahiwalay po yun, wala namang nagkukuwestyon na exclusive ang jurisdiction ng Congress in impeaching itong impeachable officials as provided for by the Constitution. Kaya lang hindi naman sinabi 'yun lang 'yung paraan para tanggalin itong impeachable officials na ito. Kung sasabihin natin 'yung provision nakalagay, may di ba? So ibig sabihin noon, meron pang ibang paraan na matatanggal sila kagaya halimbawa quo warranto pagkukuwestyon nung validity ng appointment itself," Alvarez said.

Meanwhile, Alvarez thumbed down a proposal of the consultative committee on constitutional amendments to empower the Supreme Court to try justices who are the subject of impeachment.

“Proposal lang nila 'yun, kami naman magsasabi pagdating na dito pero sa tingin ko mukhang personally,' di ako, I don't subscribe to that eh, balance of power eh," he said.

Under the 1987 Constitution, impeachment proceedings may be initiated against impeachable officials like the justices of the court, at the House and if one-third of the congressmen support it, the Senate may try the official for removal from office. 

The constitutional commission is considering that the impeachment of justices under a new constitution be initiated instead together by the House and Senate, with a trial to be done by a proposed constitutional court which will be a strictly judicial proceeding.