Senate may vote on validity of SC quo warranto decision vs Sereno

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 25) — The Senate may still vote on the validity of the quo warranto decision of the Supreme Court against Sereno if the high court nullifies her appointment, Senate President Koko Pimentel said Wednesday.

He sees a possible constitutional crisis if the court rules on the quo warranto petition after the House of Representatives has transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate

"If the majority (of the Senators) says na ok it was a valid removal then there's no more need to remove kasi (because) impeachment is removal," said Pimentel.

"But if we believe that is invalid. the majority says 'invalid,' then from our point of view there's still someone to remove therefore tuloy namin ang (we will proceed with the) impeachment (trial)," he added.

The quo warranto, a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged, was filed by the government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Calida wanted the Supreme Court to unseat Sereno over her alleged failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) for ten years, before she applied for the Chief Justice post in 2012.

The Supreme Court will decide the fate of Sereno before the end of May, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said last week. CNN Philippines sources said the voting is expected to take place on May 17.

Meanwhile, the House plenary may vote on the justice committee's articles of impeachment against Sereno when Congress resumes mid-May. She will be deemed impeached if at least one-third of the House members vote to accept the committee report. At that point, the Senate will sit as an impeachment court to convict or acquit Sereno.

'Constitutional Crisis'

Pimentel insisted on the power vested on the Senate by the constitution to remove impeachable officials even if the Supreme Court would rule on the quo warranto petition to oust Sereno.

He said a possible constitutional crisis may emerge if the Supreme Court rules on the quo warranto petition after the House of Representatives has transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

"If the SC ousts her thru a quo warranto, let us say after the impeachment court has been convened, and then the Senate as impeachment court says it's not a valid termination -- Eh 'di nakahanap ng kakampi si CJ, hindi ba? (It would appear she has found allies in the Senate, right?)

"Therefore, magrereport pa rin sa opisina 'yun, di ba? (It would still be reported to our office, right?) Oh then, we have a crisis," he added.

The embattled chief justice, who has been on leave at the request of her colleagues, had asked the high court to dismiss the quo warranto petition. She stressed that impeachment is the only way to remove a chief justice from office, asking lawmakers to "give me my day in the Senate impeachment court."

Meanwhile, Sereno spoke before law students on Wednesday, sharing strong sentiments against the quo warranto petition.

"From out of nowhere, naka-imbento ng teorya na wawasakin ang (they invented a theory that would destroy the) one- year prescription rule, ang (the) impeachment as the exclusive means of removing an impeachable officer," she said.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.