MANILA - Supreme Court magistrates could not have inhibited from deciding the quo warranto petition that eventually ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the vice chairman of the House justice panel said Monday.
Congressman Vicente Veloso said the Supreme Court is constitutionally mandated to hear quo warranto cases even as he disputed claims by Sereno’s allies that she should have been ousted by impeachment.
"Impeachment involves misbehavior while in office. Ang quo warranto involves the question of qualification. 'Wag natin pagsamahin ito. Dito sa quo warranto obligado ako, under the Supreme Court, to decide on the petition for quo warranto," he said.
(Impeachment involves misbehavior while in office. Quo warranto involves the question of qualification. Let's not mix the two up.
Veloso added that had the justices inhibited from the case, then the Court would not have been able to comply with its mandate.
“If this were only an RTC judge involved, pwede kasi maraming RTC judges. We're talking of the SC here. Wala na mas nakakataas pa sa SC," he said.
(If this were only an RTC judge involved, it would have been fine because there are many other RTC judges. We're talking of the SC here. There's nothing higher than this.)
"Halimbawa I'm one of the 7, 14 na lang ang justices kasi nag-recuse, nag-inhibit na itong si CJ Sereno. Kung 14 na lang, mag-inhibit 7, walang quorum. Paano tatakbo ang direct mandate of the Constitution? Inhibition is out of the picture.”
(For example, I am one of the 17, there are only 14 justices because Sereno has recused herself. If there's only 14 and 7 would inhibit, there would be no quorum. How will they perform the direct mandate of the Constitution. Inhibition is out of the picture.)
Veloso believes the members of the Judicial and Bar Council that allowed Sereno to be shortlisted for interviews should be held liable.
“That is proof enough we are not in conspiracy with the executive department. Wala kami pakialam sa puntong bakit di pa inihahabla ang members ng JBC," he said.
"They should be held liable. all of those who conspired in qualifying Sereno for an interview when in fact she was not qualified for such interview."
He said there was "fraud" in including Sereno in the list of applicants for the position of chief justice.
Sereno was only 52 years old when she was appointed as top magistrates 2 years after entering the Supreme Court.
During the hearings on the impeachment proceedings against Sereno, it was revealed that she failed to submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, which has been a requirement for applicants being vetted by the JBC.
The Justice Committee is set to tackle on Tuesday the impeachment complaints against the 7 justices who ousted Sereno, with the complainants arguing they betrayed public trust and culpably violated the constitution for granting the petition.