SC gives Sereno 10 days to respond to petition to oust her

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 6) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday required Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to respond to the Solicitor General's petition seeking her ouster.

"The court without giving due course to the petition, required the respondent to submit her comment on the petition for quo warranto within a period of 10 days from the receipt of notice," SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said in a press briefing.

Only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen dissented, Te said. "In his opinion the petition should be dismissed outright."

Sereno's camp reiterated the Chief Justice can only be removed from office through impeachment under the Constitution.

"The petition should have been dismissed outright and should not be allowed to circumvent the constitutional mandate that a sitting Chief Justice can only be removed by impeachment," Josa Deinla, one her Sereno's spokespersons, said in a statement.

The high court has yet to disclose how many justices were present during Tuesday's en banc session.

The justices discussed the petition for quo warranto filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday.

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

Calida wants the high court to void Sereno's appointment, saying the Chief Justice has been "unlawfully holding" her post since she failed to submit her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) for 10 years before she applied for the post in 2012.

READ: SolGen: Chief Justice Sereno 'unlawfully holding position' SolGen: Chief Justice Sereno 'unlawfully holding position'

The SC dismissed on Tuesday a similar petition filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano "for failing to provide substantial allegations to justify a course of action."

READ: Lawyer to SC: Nullify Sereno appointment to preserve judicial integrity  

House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas on Tuesday said it is best for the House of Representatives to wait for the SC ruling on the quo warranto petition before the plenary votes on Sereno's impeachment complaint.

The House Committee on Justice is expected to vote Thursday if there is probable cause to impeach Sereno. After which, the panel will send a committee report to the plenary.

Fariñas believes the earliest the plenary could vote is by May. A vote of at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives, or 98 out of the 292 incumbent congressmen, may then start an impeachment trial at the Senate.

Reacting to Calida's quo warranto petition, senators, including Senate President Koko Pimentel on Monday said impeachment is the only way to oust the Chief Justice.


Speaking to CNN Philippines, Integrated Bar of the Philippines National President Abdiel Fajardo, meanwhile said while Sereno's failure to file SALNs may be a basis for the impeachment against her to proceed, the IBP has taken the position that the quo warranto petition should not have been given due course.

He said the review of a Chief Justice's "integrity" does not fall within the powers of the Supreme Court.

"The lawyers can invoke lack of jurisdiction because the Supreme Court en banc has no power to remove a sitting Chief Justice or an associate justice because the question of integrity is a political question," he said.

He said while the matter of Sereno's SALN is a "serious issue" she must eventually face, the proper mode to review whether or not it is an impeachable offense would be at the impeachment court.

Fajardo added if the Chief Justice gives up, there may be a suspicion about judicial independence.

"She might be currently the symbol of judicial independence and if she gives up, there might be some suspicions that the judiciary would not be as independent without her in the Supreme Court as chief," he said

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

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos, Anjo Alimario, and Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.