Experts discuss possible outcomes of quo warranto case vs. Chief Justice Sereno

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 10) — The decision on the quo warranto petition against the country's top judge will be known Friday, but discussions on how it will turn out continue.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) national president Abdiel Fajardo, and Al Vitangcol, the lawyer of impeachment complainant Larry Gadon, spoke to On the Record Thursday, to give their opinions on the case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Fajardo said the IBP's position is that the court should never have entertained the petition "because of lack of jurisdiction to remove a co-equal in the court."

"The disciplinary authority and the power to remove from the Supreme Court acting en banc only applies to lower court judges and justices," he said. "They cannot remove any of their own."

Despite having deliberated on the case, Fajardo said the justices could still decide that they have no jurisdiction over it.

"It happens all the time," he added.

Vitangcol, meanwhile, said the justices could vote in favor of the petition, but not issue the writ of quo warranto – meaning Sereno will not be removed from office – and let the impeachment proceedings continue.

"Pupuwedeng gano'n [That could happen]. That is a possibility. But I'm not saying that will happen tomorrow," he said.

How will the votes be split?

Both Fajardo and Vitangcol gave their predictions on how the voting could go on Friday.

Vitangcol said, based on information, one or two justices may not be able attend the en banc session – one was on leave, another was out of the country.

He said a justice "closest" to Sereno would likely vote for her.

Vitangcol did not disclose any names, however.

"So the final count would be 11-1-2," he said.

Fajardo said a vote of 11-1-2 was "alarming."

"Aside from the well-publicized positions of the justices, and five of them went to Congress to testify, you know, just add to the five, that's how it's going to be," he said. He noted that only three more votes would be needed to swing the decision against Sereno if the justices are really immovable in their position that she should be removed.

However, both said a vote of 7-7 is still possible.

In that case, Fajardo said, a 7-7 vote would mean the quo warranto petition is dead because it did not get the necessary majority vote.

"If it becomes a 7-7, it would be a very close tie," he said, but the tie would not be broken as it usually is by the chief justice in other cases. That's because Sereno has said she would inhibit herself from the proceedings, he added.

Should the vote be against Sereno, Vitangcol added the justices could immediately issue the writ of quo warranto and move for the ouster of the chief justice.

The issuance of a writ of quo warranto is effective immediately and executory.

However, Sereno could still file a motion of reconsideration within 15 days.

"Judicially, that is her recourse. To file a motion of reconsideration and hope that the justices reevaluate their positions," Fajardo said.

Impeachment or quo warranto?

Vitangcol said he could not judge whether Sereno should be removed via the quo warranto or by impeachment.

"I cannot say simply because I believe the quo warranto case is valid. It has merit in it. But then, it would be the Supreme Court who will be the final arbiter of things," he said.

However, Fajardo said the proper way to decide on Sereno's fate would be through impeachment.

"The proper method of removing an impeachable officer like the chief justice is an impeachment proceeding before the Senate," he added.

Fajardo said his position was not in defense of one person, but rather of an institution.

"The Supreme Court should be the embodiment of judicial independence," he said.

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