Groups seek dismissal of SolGen's petition to oust Sereno

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — Two motions have been filed at the Supreme Court seeking the dismissal of a petition to remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from office.

The groups, one composed of minority lawmakers, the other of concerned citizens, on Friday questioned the Solicitor General's quo warranto petition asking the high court to void Sereno's appointment.

The groups asked the Supreme Court to allow them to intervene in the case, stressing that the Chief Justice can only be ousted through impeachment, as stated in the Constitution.

Should the Supreme Court grant the quo warranto petition, the groups warned it would open the floodgates to similar petitions against impeachable officials.

"Pinakamalinaw na panganib dito ay binabalewala yung konstitusyon upang masunod ang kagustuhan ni Pangulong Duterte (The clear danger here is the Constitution is undermined to bow to the wishes of President Duterte)," said ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio.

Activist priest Robert Reyes, who was among the intervenors in one motion, said the high court should not kowtow to whatever Malacañang says.

"Ang ating pinoprotektahan yung tinatawag na balance of power saka checks and balance (We should protect the balance of power and checks and balance)," Reyes said.

The Palace has repeatedly denied any hand in efforts to impeach Sereno, although it earlier called for her resignation.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) will file a separate intervention at the high court against Calida's quo warranto petition.

The IBP said inquiring into Sereno's alleged lack of integrity violates the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

"Naisala siya ng JBC (Judicial and Bar Council) at saka ng opisina mismo ng pangulo noon at ang parehong koponan ay nagsabi na talagang meron siyang integridad," IBP President Abdiel Fajardo told CNN Philippines in an interview.

[Translation: She was screened by the JBC and the Office of the President then and they both said she has integrity. ]

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.

Sereno on Monday filed her comment on the petition, asking her colleagues at the Supreme Court to dismiss it.

In her 130-page comment and annexes, Sereno argued that the submission of SALNs to the JBC was not an "absolute requirement" for those vying for chief justice.

The embattled chief justice is facing a quo warranto, a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office, on top of an impeachment case. The House Committee on Justice has just finished the articles of impeachment which will be brought to the plenary for voting.

If at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives vote to impeach Sereno, the complaint would go to trial at the Senate.

A conviction in just one article is enough to oust Sereno.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this report.