Sign of weakness
The filing of a petition for quo warranto by Solicitor General Jose Calida before the Supreme Court questioning the qualifications of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is a clear indication of the weakness of the impeachment case against her when it reaches the Senate for trial.
While the House of Representatives appears to have the required number of votes to impeach Sereno, there is no assurance that the constitutionally mandated number of two-thirds vote of the members of the Senate could be obtained to ensure Sereno’s conviction which carries the penalty of removal from the Office of the Chief Justice.
Section 6 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution provides that “the Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment (and that) no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”
While the current Senate is composed of only 23 senators instead of 24 (in view of the appointment of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs), the two-thirds vote requirement means that the complainant needs at least 16 votes to convict while Sereno needs only eight votes to be acquitted.
Considering the political affiliations and personal sentiments of the incumbent members of the Senate on Sereno’s case, there is no definite assurance of her conviction since it is too close to call, so to speak, on how they would cast their votes.
Furthermore, the petition for quo warranto is a dismissible case since the Supreme Court has no power to remove from office any impeachable official like Sereno, otherwise it would be a clear circumvention of said provisions of the Constitution. As succinctly stated by Senate President Koko Pimentel, “inventing ways to oust impeachable officials may be unconstitutional.”
Calida may find the process of impeachment too difficult to oust Sereno but, as stated by the Supreme Court in a case: A petitioner may find a legal process too unsatisfactory but “he is not at liberty to simply disregard it and carve out a new procedure according to his liking.” (Honasan vs Comelec, GR No. 149233, Minute Resolution, February 13, 2007)
ROMULO B. MACALINTAL,
Las Piñas City
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