SolGen questions Sereno's qualifications as chief justice

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 5) — The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a quo warranto petition on the qualifications of Maria Lourdes Sereno as the Supreme Court's Chief Justice on Monday.

A quo warranto is a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged.

Suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari earlier asked the OSG to look into the validity of Sereno's appointment.

He said Sereno repeatedly failed to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), which is one of the requirements for those applying for the Chief Justice post.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said he believes Solicitor General Jose Calida should question Sereno's appointment before the high court.

Sereno's camp, however, maintained the Chief Justice can only be removed from office through impeachment.

According to Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, quo warranto proceedings may be initiated by the government against:

  • a person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise;
  • a public officer who does or suffers an act which, by the provision of law, constitutes a ground for the forfeiture of his office;
  • or an association which acts as a corporation within the Philippines without being legally incorporated or without lawful authority so to act."

Sereno is accused of violating the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes which are grounds for impeachment under the Constitution. She repeatedly denied the allegations and asked for the complaint to be junked.

'Substantial compliance'

In an impeachment hearing on February 12, Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) Executive Director Annaliza Ty-Capacite said Sereno sent a letter to the JBC saying she couldn't submit her SALN as she no longer had access to the documents.

She added because many applicants failed to submit all of their SALNs, then congressional representative to the JBC Senator Francis Escudero suggested to relax the rule and to allow substantial compliance.

Capacite said Sereno submitted three SALNs, covering 2009, 2010, and 2011, which they already considered substantial.

Capacite added one of the JBC ex-officio members said there should at least be substantial compliance, or in Sereno's case, an attempt to submit the SALN, for her inclusion in the JBC shortlist.

Before assuming the Chief Justice post in 2012, Sereno taught at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law from 1986 to 2006.

Applicants to the post are required to submit their SALN for the past decade, in this case from 2002 to 2011.

However, Associate Justices Teresita de Castro, who was also one of the nominees for chief justice, said the JBC committed a "grave injustice" against other applicants when they accepted Sereno's application even after she failed to submit her SALN.

Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who was the former JBC en banc chair, said he was not informed Sereno did not submit her SALN when she applied for chief justice.

He also said Sereno's appointment could be declared void, as she should instead be considered a de facto officer.