DUMAGUETE CITY – It is widely known that an impeachment is a political tool accepted in modern democracies.
Whether political animals conspire together and coordinate to impeach someone is of no moment. It is political – the nature of the beast.
It is, in fact, an instrument that helps ensure there are check and balance between the three co-equal branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. Thus a Chief Justice (Judiciary) who is appointed by the President of the Philippines (Executive) is impeachable by Congress (Legislative).
Today-SC Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, appointed by former president Noy Aquino is now being impeached by Congress under the new Duterte administration.
It would be instructive to know that CJ Sereno was one of the first to make negative remarks on the “Drug War” of the administration; her appointment (now she is only 52 years old) was over the carcasses of more senior and supposedly better “learned” members of the august body.Resentment and jealousy among the other justices, if you may, could be normal human frailties.
Contextually, that is one view of the whys of the impeachment case. But are the purported grounds qualified as impeachable offenses? Who can impeach her?
There have been at least 7 Justices of the SC, who lent their presence and testimonies to pin CJ Sereno to the ground with her throat slit.To our layman’s judgment, most of them border on lack of management savvy, administrative faux pas, and failure of relationships in a body that is supposed to be collegial. Rather than heavy impeachable offenses.
That is probably the same reason the CJ refused to be present in the hearings at the Lower House and is rushing the latter to draft the impeachment case to the Senate.
Sereno did not want to reveal her defense trenches prematurely and honestly, believes an “independent” Senate will acquit her of the charges. Under the law, 16 senators can ax her from her throne and Optimists on the other side believe the prosecution can at best muster only 8 votes for the prosecution.
For another, the Senate has been peeved by the Lower House for being told what to do by them, and by their insistence on a Con-Ass voting for charter change where 24 senators will matter as to only one vote each. Congress has also called the Senate names for allegedly sitting on many of their already approved Lower House bills. (Lazy, is one of them?)
Many pundits may be right in saying that the recent move of the Solicitor General and endorsed by the Department of Justice to yank Cereno out via “ quo warranto” method through the Supreme court is perhaps an admission of the fact that the impeachment case of Congress is weak.
“Quo warranto” is when “a person usurps, intrudes into, unlawfully exercises a public office” without complete requirements. They are referring to the “missing” SALNs of the CJ from 2005-201o when she was a professor at the state-owned University of the Philippines and therefore a government officer.
“Sisyphus Lament” columnist Oscar Franklin Tan says those lacking SALNs are mere violations of internal rules of the Judicial Bar Council and not Constitutionally- violative.
A Philippine President- as we know can appoint a Chief justice only on three minimal sine qua nons: must be a Filipino citizen of at least 40 years and spent 15 years as a judge which CJ Sereno was at the time of her appointment in 2012.
The Impeachment petition also cites BIR violations many years ago hinting at possible tax evasion by Sereno which move violates the rule of “three-year prescription” period that a citizen may be investigated (harassed?) by the BIR for past offenses.
The danger of the SC favoring the “quo warranto” is that this would open the dam gates for the possibility of all impeachable officers, including the president of the republic, to be removed through such a method by the SC.
Some senators insist it is only the Senate who is bound by the Constitution to rule on impeachment proceedings (as in the CJ Renato Corona case) -not a quo warranto- and justices who will allow the latter is open game for impeachment proceedings (in their term) later and for graft (after the SC term expires).
In the Congressional hearings, two issues affecting CJ Sereno, namely, psychological incapacity and intellectual lack, were also raised. Why?
To our minds, psychological tests and their interpretation of results must be versus the prism of the position of the person under scrutiny. For instance- in Executive psycho tests in banks to determine to bring the staff to officership level- mental dishonesty and hatred of authority could .be key indicators for unfitness for the job while sexual preferences and class consciousness may not be as crucial.
For a president of a country, tendencies for mass violence, a psychopath’s inability to discern right from wrong and suicidal tendencies are crucial.
In the case of CJ Sereno, among the supposedly five “negative” traits based on her psychological test in 2012 were grandiosity, thirst for power, sense of entitlement – to our minds, are not key to damage a CJ ‘s ability to function her role. Even depression is a common affliction that hits all of us at certain points in our lives.
In other words, there is no passing or failing marks in psychological tests- only indications of predispositions and emotional leanings.
As to intellect, the critics say a CJ with a tested IQ (intelligence quotient) of only 109 (Sereno) is not flattering for such a position; but being a valedictorian in class at UP (Sereno was) at least shows how diligence and hard work can eclipse all IQ advantages of rivals.
Besides a man with an alleged remarkable IQ as 147 like Ferdinand Marcos only caused the nation’s ruination- so what is intellect without scruples? And Sereno has strong spiritual footings.
Or as Anna Marie Pamintuan of the Philippine Star quoted- there is only a thin line between genius and insanity.
Are we saying CJ Sereno is clean and must not be impeached? Not at all. In fact, we note that the impeachment process must go up to the Senate so they can resolve her culpability or not. Anything out of the Senate is unconstitutional and short-circuiting the cause of justice and fair play.
If the House prosecutors are so certain about their allegations, they should with haste go to the Senate and not be distracted by “quo warrantos” to sabotage the “sue generis” nature of an impeachment procedure.
If the Senate convicts her- Sereno goes. If acquitted -she can go back to the SC and face the same hostile peers and unwelcoming staff. Is this good for the country?
Our countryside reasoning argues for Sereno to press for her “day in court in the Senate”. After proving her innocence via acquittal – she can humbly accept her lack of “emotional quotient” that rubbed a collegial body like the SC the wrong way- and resign after her acquittal.
Of course, that would be most difficult to do for the “Fighting Lady from Kamuning” as she said her effort to resist the pressure to resign is to show an example to her countrymen that not everyone will cower in the face of the unrelenting pressure of the political games.
If she does resign- then, the rightful CJ should be Justice Jose Antonio Carpio, not only because he is the most senior, but because his intelligence and communication credentials are very high and his bravery and patriotism beyond doubt by his opposition to the China Issue and the Duterte Doctrines related thereat.
CJ Ma Lourdes Sereno is at the crossroads of her life. She alone can define the role she wants to play in this unfolding saga of national survival.
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