‘QUO warranto’ – a writ or legal action requires a person to show by what office or franchise, is held, claimed, or exercised. – The New Oxford American Dictionary
Today marks the beginning of the scheduled Supreme Court (SC) hearing as to whether or not the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has merit.
If the SC finds that Calida’s petition does, indeed, have merit, what happens? As far as I can see, nothing.
The SC does not have the power to order the dismissal of its own members. SC members may only be dismissed as a result of impeachment (Art XI Sec 2).
Is the SC wasting its time (and the taxpayers’ money) by giving Calida’s petition the time of day?
Section 11, Rule 66 of the Rules of Court says that a quo warranto petition should be brought within one year (of Sereno’s appointment). Calida is out of time. In any case, I would have thought that any quo warranto petition should have been drawn to the attention to those responsible for the decision to appoint Sereno. This, initially, was the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). Constitutionally, (Art VIII Sec 8), the JBC has to draw up a short list of at least three candidates from which the President makes his selection. JBC members are appointed by the President for a four year term.
Sereno was short-listed by JBC and appointed by President Aquino in 2012.
To this writer, Sereno’s adversaries are becoming seen as petty and vindictive, whereas Sereno appears serene, at least on the surface. This matters. The Court of Public Opinion is not irrelevant. The impeachment route, reportedly favored by Sereno herself, seems quite likely. One third of the House of Representatives would have to vote for impeachment in order for the hearings to be conducted by Senate. Sereno needs eight senators to vote in her favor in order for the impeachment to fail. Sereno’s omission of her 1988 Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) may not convince senators that she should be fired.
For half the senators, 2019 is the year where elections are relevant. To be-reelected, they need more than 14 million votes. Voters do not like female respondents being hectored by senators. In 2016, Maia Deguito, who to many was scapegoated by her bosses in RCBC over the “Cyber Heist” was subjected to sarcasm by Senator Osmeña when Deguito, on the advice of Atty. Topacio, indicated that she would answer questions in executive session. Osmeña failed to gain re-election. Years earlier, Sandra Cam was bullied about her personal life by Sen. Richard Gordon. He, too failed to gain re-election and it was many years later before he was able to resume his Senate seat.
Re-electionist senators will need to be fair to Sereno.
Even in our fragile democracy, the Court of Public Opinion counts./PN