4 Chief Justice applicants slapped with impeachment rap for voting vs. Sereno

 

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 23) — Four of the five applicants for the Chief Justice post will face impeachment raps, following a complaint filed by opposition lawmakers Thursday. 

Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Jr. and Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin filed an impeachment complaint against seven Supreme Court justices for voting in favor of the ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Chief Justice nominees Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin and Andres Reyes, Jr. all face charges for allegedly violating the constitution when they voted to grant the quo warranto petition that unseated Sereno.

The other justices slapped with the impeachment rap are Justices Alexander Gesmundo, Francis Jardaleza and Noel Tijam.

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The four solons said they filed the raps with basis of the justices committing culpable violation of the Constitution. They said under the charter, the Chief Justice may only be removed from office through impeachment.

The lawmakers also said the seven Justices betrayed public trust when they voted in the landmark ruling.

Lagman said the four applicants should be disqualified from running for the chief magistrate post, citing a revised decree under the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

"Under the revised rules of the JBC, an applicant who has a pending criminal or administrative case is disqualified from being nominated or appointed in any position in the judiciary," Lagman told reporters in a briefing.

"And we are saying that the impeachment complaint is more than just an administrative case," he added.

The congressman added the justices all "lacked independence" when they succumbed to the importuning of President Rodrigo Duterte, who wanted the removal of Sereno. He noted Duterte has long tagged the former Chief Justice as an "enemy."

Justice Samuel Martires, who also voted in favor of the ouster, will not be part of the complaint as he now heads the Office of the Ombudsman.

New nominees?

Should the disqualification take effect, only Judge Virginia Tehano-Ang, the lone applicant outside of the Supreme Court, will remain in the race for the chief magistrate.

READ: Who'll be the next Chief Justice? Meet the five applicants

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) President Abdiel Fajardo said the council may need to draw another list of nominees for the post.

"At this point, only those justices are in the running (for Chief Justice) including one judge from Davao," Fajardo told CNN Philippines. "(If they are disqualified), the JBC will have to draw another list for the President to choose from."

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in response to the complaint, said the issue will not have an effect on the nominees.

"My personal opinion is, the mere filing of an impeachment complaint, which is not the same as a criminal or administrative complaint in the ordinary sense, will not have any effect on the nomination of the four SC justices for the CJ position," Guevarra said in a statement.

On May 11, Sereno became the first chief justice to be ousted by the Supreme Court. She was disqualified from her post and found "guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the Chief Justice."  The court affirmed the ruling in June, rejecting Sereno's appeal.