Sereno permanently removed as Chief Justice

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 19) — She's out and it's final.

Maria Lourdes Sereno was permanently removed as Chief Justice Tuesday as the Supreme Court upheld with finality its earlier decision to oust her from the post.

Voting 8-6, the High Court junked Sereno's appeal for it to reconsider the granting of the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

This petition, a legal proceeding challenging one's right to hold office, was granted by the Supreme Court on May 11, making Sereno the first top magistrate to be ousted by the High Court.

"The 90-day period for filling the vacancy in the office of Chief Justice commences today," SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said in a press briefing.

The Judicial and Bar Council, the body tasked to screen applicants to the judiciary, earlier held off its search for Sereno's replacement to wait for the Supreme Court's final ruling.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who had declared himself an enemy of Sereno and called for her ouster, will appoint the next chief justice.

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Sereno's camp accepts the legal fight is over, but called the ouster "unjust."

“Sa palagay namin matagal na pag-uusapan ng taong-bayan yan at marami sa taong-bayan ang tututol diyan sapagkat napakaunjust po ng pag-aalis kay Chief Justice Sereno sa kanyang katungkulan," lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno's spokespersons told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: "We believe the people will talk about that for a long time and many of them will oppose because the Chief Justice's removal from office is so injust."]

He said Sereno will "continue to be the voice of the people," but maintained she has mentioned of no plans to run for public office.

READ: What's next for ousted Chief Justice Sereno?  

No need for impeachment

The Supreme Court's granting of Calida's quo warranto petition against Sereno is highly contested, as senators and many in the legal community maintain that impeachment is the only way to unseat a Chief Justice. An impeachment was underway in Congress, but the SC decision preempted it.

House Justice Committee Chairman Reynaldo Umali said the lawmakers will vote that the impeachment case against Sereno is moot and academic, but stressed this step is "just for formality."

"I feel so relieved na the case is now with finality and therefore yung aming impeachment case is deemed moot and academic," he told CNN Philippines.

 

Sereno's fight

Sereno filed a motion for reconsideration on May 30, saying the high court's ruling to remove her from office was "null and void" and that she was not granted due process.

The appeal also reiterated that the six associate justices – Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Samuel Martires and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro – should have inhibited themselves from hearing and voting on Sereno's case for being partial.

All six justices voted against Sereno, resulting in a 8-6 vote that unseated her. Their basis was her alleged lack of integrity for failure to file her statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth prior to her appointment as Chief Justice in 2012.

If only two of the justices had changed their minds and voted in favor of Sereno's appeal, the historic ruling would be reversed, allowing Sereno to return as chief magistrate.

Calida filed the quo waranto petition against Sereno in March, saying she was "unlawfully holding position" for failing to file her SALNs.

Sereno's camp said they have found 12 of the 16 missing SALNs, saying this is proof she has been filing them.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.