Solgen’s appeal vs De Lima: Unorthodox attack against fundamental principles of law | Inquirer Opinion

Solgen’s appeal vs De Lima: Unorthodox attack against fundamental principles of law

/ 05:03 AM September 22, 2023

A news report titled “Solgen goes to CA to question De Lima acquittal” (News, 9/13/23) struck us as reminiscent of former solicitor general (SolGen) Jose Calida’s quo warranto gambit to eviscerate former Supreme Court chief justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. The current SolGen, Menardo Guevarra, seems to have learned new tricks and took to heart a lesson or two from his immediate predecessor.

Like Calida, Guevarra has embarked on an unorthodox attack against fundamental principles of law taught since law school. Calida turned a constitutional rule on its head when he initiated proceedings against Sereno via quo warranto in the Supreme Court, instead of impeachment in Congress—the only mode allowed by the Constitution to remove a sitting Supreme Court justice. On his part, Guevarra defied jurisprudence on double jeopardy by filing an appeal disingenuously disguised as a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals to trash the trial court’s acquittal in the second drug case against former senator Leila de Lima who was also acquitted earlier in the first drug case. Two down, one more to go.

Arguing that Sereno was unfit to hold public office for her failure to comply in the past with the requirements of filing statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs), Calida did succeed in having Sereno defrocked of her Supreme Court robe. But it was not a victory worth enshrining in jurisprudence. The high court itself was to pronounce later—once and for all: “For the future’s worth, it is herein stressed that the SALN is a tool for public transparency, never a weapon for political vendetta.” In plain language, Sereno’s removal based on the SALN law alone was an aberration. That disposition limned “a stark contrast to the high court’s May 11, 2018 ruling that booted out … Sereno, through … Calida and President Duterte’s allies” (“SC vindicates Corona, grants full retirement benefits,” News, 2/9/21).


And here is what Guevarra is up against in his own bid to do a Calida: As a rule, with just a needle’s eye for any exception to pass through, appeal from a judgment of acquittal is verboten. The Constitution provides that “[n]o person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.” People v. Arcega (G.R. No. 237489) elaborated: “A judgment of acquittal, whether ordered by the trial or the appellate court, is final, unappealable, and immediately executory upon its promulgation.” In the absence of “proof beyond reasonable doubt” or “upon reasonable doubt” alone, the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused becomes rock solid.


But here’s the rub: Guevarra opined that his move is not a prohibited “appeal” from an acquittal which could trigger a barrage of objections on grounds of double jeopardy, but a petition for certiorari to impugn the “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction” by the trial judge for which reason his judgment should be deemed a nullity. Same dog, different collar! Undoubtedly, Guevarra knows he’s going against the odds. But his being so gung-ho in pushing the envelope this far has thrown us for a loop. He should instead be quarterbacking more keenly the last pending drug case if he really wants a De Lima conviction that badly.

Stephen L. Monsanto,

[email protected]

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TAGS: De Lima, letter, SolGen

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