DOJ Chief: Charter should be amended to clarify impeachment rules

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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra claims the present wording in the Constitution is not clear on the rules of impeachment.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra believes the Constitution must be amended to categorically say that impeachment is the only way to remove an impeachable official from his post.

"If I may suggest, in order to avoid a similar situation in the future, now that the Constitution is proposed to be amended, we'd rather make it very clear that the only way to remove impeachable officers will be by through impeachment," said Guevarra in an exclusive interview on CNN Philippines' The Source.

 

Guevarra's statement comes two days after the Supreme Court junked an appeal of Atty. Maria Lourdes Sereno to review her ouster from the Chief Justice post last May 11.

Sereno was ousted through a quo warranto petition filed by the government's lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida. The Office of the Solicitor General is an independent body attached to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In another interview, Guevarra explained impeachment is for acts committed after a valid appointment. But if the issue is qualification to hold office, the quo warranto becomes the proper remedy.

"As presently worded, hindi malinaw sa [it's not clear in the] Constitution na that should be the only way of removing an impeachable officer," said Guevarra.

The Justice Secretary added he respects the court's ruling.

"As a law professor I think the decision was correct," said Guevarra. "In so far as making a distinction between quo warranto and impeachment as a mode of removing a justice of the Supreme Court."

Under the Constitution, the President, Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office through impeachment.

Sereno was the first impeachable official to be removed from office via the quo warranto petition, which questioned her right to hold office over her failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) from 2002 to 2012.

Guevarra warned about the quo warranto petition enabling the SC to change the Rules of Court.

"Otherwise, the Supreme Court may change the rules of court pertaining to quo warranto and make it clear likewise that even impeachable officers may be subjected to quo warranto," he claimed.