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Lagman to SC justices: Dismiss quo warranto petition vs Sereno to prove fairness

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By: Xave Gregorio

Opposition leader and Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman dared Supreme Court (SC) justices to junk the quo warranto petition seeking to nullify Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s appointment to prove their impartiality toward their leader.

“The eventual dismissal by the [SC] of the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida to oust … Sereno would be an opportunity for concerned justices to show that they are fair, judicious and protective of the Constitution,” Lagman said in a statement Saturday (March 10).

The Liberal Party lawmaker noted how Associate Justice Marvic Leonen voted to dismiss the quo warranto petition, even if it was widely reported that he was the one who moved to compel Sereno to go on indefinite leave.

Reports said Leonen was among the seven justices who forced Sereno to go on indefinite leave, ahead of the House justice committee’s vote on probable cause.

“They can prove their impartiality by voting for the dismissal of the quo warranto petition, which in the first place is baseless, offensive to the Constitution and has expired,” Lagman said.

He has repeatedly insisted that the quo warranto petition against Sereno has no basis in the Constitution, as only Congress can kick the Chief Justice out of her office through impeachment.

Minority senators and even President Rodrigo Duterte’s ally Senate President Koko Pimentel agree with Lagman’s statement.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, however, disagree with this view, insisting that it is correct for Calida to file the quo warranto petition as it seeks to invalidate Sereno’s appointment on the grounds that she did not meet the requirements set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on the submission of statements of assets, liabilities and net (SALN) worth.

On the other hand, they say impeachment presumes that Sereno’s appointment was valid.

The quo warranto petition stemmed from testimonies culled from impeachment hearings, where it was revealed that Sereno only submitted three SALNs and a letter explaining she cannot locate her other SALNs to the JBC when she applied for chief justice, when she was required to submit 10 year’s worth of wealth declarations.

However, the JBC still considered Sereno’s application as it had adopted a rule which says an “attempt to comply” with the SALN requirement would suffice.

The House justice committee voted Thursday (March 8) to recommend Sereno’s impeachment because of her missing SALNs, among other allegations.

The panel is set to meet again on Wednesday (March 14) for another round of voting, this time on the committee report and the articles of impeachment which they will send to the plenary for voting.

If one-thirds of the 292-member House votes to impeach Sereno, the articles of impeachment will be sent to the Senate which would convene as an impeachment court.