Sereno allies tell 8 SC justices: Reverse decision or face impeachment

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2018 08:57 PM | Updated as of May 22 2018 09:40 PM

MANILA - Allies of ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno told the 8 justices who granted the quo warranto petition to reverse their ruling or they will file an impeachment case against them once the SC’s ruling becomes final.

The eight Supreme Court Justices are Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo.

Rep. Edcel Lagman, in a press conference, said the 8 justices should be impeached for "culpable violation of the Constitution and patent betrayal of public trust."

"Verily, the grievously errant eight Justices must be impeached for culpable violation of the Constitution and patent betrayal of public trust, among other impeachable offenses. Only a contrite and complete recantation by reconsidering their unlawful, controversial and unpopular decision can save the eight Justices from impeachment," he said.

Lagman also said he and his allies will file their complaint soon.

"Most probably by second week or the end of the first week of June. It all depends on whether the 8 justices would reconsider their decision," he said.

Lagman stressed they won't file their complaint if the decision against Sereno is reversed.

"Of course, because we said if they recant and reconsider then there's no case. They have traced their footsteps backward in order to see the light, but if they insist and persist on their unwarranted and unconstitutional decision, then we're going to file the impeachment complaints individually and separately against the errant justices," he explained.

"Justices of the Supreme Court cannot be allowed to be supreme even in their arbitrariness and malevolence. To let them escape scot-free is to condone injustice and oppression. The supreme people must have a way of penalizing errant justices to ensure that justice prevails and the integrity of the Supreme Court and the independence of the judiciary are restored. The only viable remedy and constitutional mode of holding justices accountable for their blunder is to remove them from office by impeachment," Lagman added.

According to Lagman, the Constitution unequivocally mandates that it is only by impeachment instituted by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate can an impeachable official be removed from office. 

Citing Section 2, 3(1) and 3(6) of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, Lagman said these were the provisions "ripped apart" by the 8 justices.

"These clear provisions of the Constitution were ripped apart by the eight justices, five of whom had aired their grievances and expressed their prejudice against Chief Justice Sereno by testifying for her impeachment in the hearings conducted by the House Committee on Justice," he said.

Lagman further explained the 8 justice are liable for culpable violations of the Constitution because of the following:

(a) They arrogated the power and jurisdiction of the Congress to impeach the Chief Justice as provided for in the aforesaid Sections 2, 3(1) and 3(6) of Article XI of the Constitution; and 

(b) They repudiated the recommendation of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for the appointment by the President of Chief Justice Sereno which is the sole prerogative of the JBC under Section 8(5) of Article VIII of the Constitution which expressly provides that the JBC “shall have the principal function of recommending appointees to the Judiciary.
 
They are also culpable of betrayal of public trust because of the following:

(a) With respect to Justices De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza and Tijam, they refused to inhibit themselves from participating in the deliberation and adjudication of the quo warranto petition against Sereno despite the fact that they have publicly expressed their bias against her when they testified for her impeachment before the House Committee on Justice; 

(b) Their partiality and bias are repugnant to the high standards of judicial impartiality and judiciousness which they themselves recently reiterated in dismissing Judge Winlove Dumayas of the Makati City Regional Trial Court when they ruled that judges and magistrates “must not only be impartial but also must appear to be impartial”; and 

(c) All of the eight justices, despite their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, subverted the fundamental law by utterly disregarding the clear provisions of the Constitution, thus abandoning the public trust reposed on them. 

"Never in the 117-year history of the Supreme Court has any of its decisions ignited such a widespread and collective condemnation from an aggrieved nation than the 8-6 decision ousting Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in an improvident and unwarranted quo warranto petition," Lagman said.

Representative Edgar Erice and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano have expressed their support for Lagman, adding they will sign the impeachment complaint.

Lagman also said Representatives Teddy Baguilat, Tom Villarin, and Emmanuel Billones will join their cause.

This, despite House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez' earlier statement that the 8 justices cannot be impeached over their decision on the quo warranto petition against Sereno.

"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.

Lagman, however, disagrees with Alvarez.

"The impeachment complaint we're going to file will definitely be sufficient in form and substance. In other words, the committee on justice will be constrained to conduct the necessary deliberations and hearings," he said.

He also dispelled notions this will open the floodgates to impeachment complaints from anyone who disagrees with any ruling of the court. 

"We rejected the decision of the SC when they allowed the burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. We also rejected the SC decisions when they sustained the declaration of martial law and its extension but we never said we were going to file an impeachment case against those whose decisions we did not favor so it is not true that just because we do not favor the decision we can opt to impeach them in this case its very patent the decisions was unconstitutional," Lagman explained.

"We're just saying if there is insistence and persistence on the part of the 8 justices not to reconsider their decision there is an option for the people which is the impeachment of the justices based on culpable violation of the constitution it is very clear that they had violated several provisions of the Constitution," he added, denying they are threatening the Court.

Erice, meanwhile, appealed to the House leadership to give their coming complaint a chance. 

"It must be the duty of the House leadership of giving the same fair chance of hearing the witnesses during a justice committee hearing. 'Yung ito ginawa kay Justice Sereno dapat kung anong proseso ang ginawa kay Justice Sereno, dapat 'yun din ang gawin sa mga magistrates na masasampahan ng impeachment," he said.