SC action on quo warranto vs Sereno could make impeachment moot – Fariñas

March 6, 2018 - 2:34 PM
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno speaks before University of Baguio Law students and members of Baguio's legal community. PHIL. STAR/ Andy G. Zapanta Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court might make it unnecessary for the House of Representatives to decide on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno if it takes cognizance and rules on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida questioning her authority to occupy her post.

“Even in the natural progression of time, the Supreme Court might overtake us,” Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said. “This is my view as chairman of the committee on rules, if I see serious challenge on the legitimacy of the officer in question, hintayin ko muna iyon (I will wait for it to be resolved first) … “

He also predicted that it “will be of utmost importance to the Supreme Court that (the quo warranto) will be resolved in a month’s time, it won’t really drag.”

In a separate interview, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House will proceed with the process of impeachment despite Calida’s bid.

Tuloy pa rin ang impeachment kasi magkahiwalay naman (The impeachment will proceed because these are different processes). We will just assume that her appointment is valid,” Alvarez said.

He said the House had the option to wait for the high court to decide or not, “kaya lang nagmamadali si Chief Justice Sereno, sinasabi niya, ‘Umpisahan na natin.’ Sabi ko nga, mag-enjoy muna (muna siya) sa bakasyon (but Chief Justice Sereno is in a hurry and said, ‘Let’s start this.’ So I said, enjoy her vacation).”

But Fariñas said even if the House committee on justice votes on the existence of probable cause against Sereno, the plenary could not act on it immediately because Congress will take a long break starting March 22.

Fariñas gave this timetable in dealing with the impeachment complaint:

  • The justice committee votes on probable cause on March 8.
  • The report will be transmitted to the committee on rules, which has 10 session days to include it in the Order of Business.
  • Congress only has seven session days before the March 22 break.
  • If included in the Order of Business on May 14, when Congress resumes session, the plenary has 60 session days to decide on it, or until October 31.

“Of course, I have to review the committee report when it reaches me, if it’s ripe to be brought to plenary. If I see deficiencies, I will tell the committee to fix them … So, May 14 is the soonest we can take it up in plenary,” he said.

“By May 14, the Supreme Court would have decided on that case, they will have the whole month of April and half … of March. In fact, they have raffled it according to news reports,” he added.