Democracy is up and kicking

>> Sunday, June 24, 2018

March Fianza

            The Supreme Court en banc threw out last Tuesday (June 19, 2018) the petition of ousted CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno to reverse their earlier ruling on May 11, 2018 that nullified her appointment as the highest SC official. The high court said the decision is final.
Sereno’s ouster from the SC marks the first time that a chief justice was removed through a quo warranto petition that was filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida. Sereno’s legal team said Calida’s legal recourse was unconstitutional.
That is exactly the beauty of democratic debate and argument. People have the right to brand decisions or legal recourses as incorrect when it does not work in their favor.
In the chambers of the highest court alone, in another vote, nine justices said quo warranto was the proper remedy to remove CJ Sereno, while five said it was not. Certainly, the justices carefully discussed the pros and cons in order to make a sensible decision.
Before and after the May 11, 2018 Supreme Court ruling that granted the ouster petition in an 8-6 vote, statements for and against the decision coming from all sides were posted on all forms of media, indicating that democracy in this country is up and kicking strong – if not abused.
Critics were quick to call the decision an attack on judicial independence. That is another beauty of having restored democracy after Martial Law. Nobody is afraid to say his or her piece.
While the debates in every corner raged on, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (maybe this meant “some IBP officers”, not all IBP members) said, it maintained that the only way to oust a chief justice is through impeachment.
But reading from a newspaper editorial, on the other hand, that was exactly what Solicitor Jose Calida wanted to prove – that a quo warranto petition is also one way to remove an unqualified government official.
The other argument is that the constitution says the only way to remove a sitting SC justice and other heads of independent government commissions is through impeachment, but the constitution does not bar people from filing quo warranto petitions against government officials who have violated rules prior to their appointments.
The SC decision was based on very simple and understandable reasons – that Sereno was ousted for her failure to fully disclose the required statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) when she applied for the SC's top post in 2012.
Still, quarters who sympathize with CJ Sereno contradicted the SC en banc ruling, making the latter include in its decision that it denied the previous motion for intervention by the IBP because the organization’s interest in the case is “merely out of sentimental desire” to uphold the rule of law.  
Because of this petition and because of the decision, small and big protests were held. In the Manila area, a few dozen protest marchers easily ballooned into hundreds soon as fast food in styro boxes were distributed.
The same few people in the protest march make the same statements, while the greater number in the crowd are mere spectators anticipating freebies of T-shirts and fast food packs from the coordinators.
Meanwhile, lawyer Lorenzo Gadon is facing another disbarment complaint for filing an impeachment complaint in Congress against CJ Sereno. Complainant Jover Laurio of Pinoy Ako Blog said Gadon showed disrespect for the Constitution and displayed gross ignorance of the law when he filed a criminal complaint against Chief Justice Sereno in the DOJ with a prayer for her removal.
At the same time, a certain Jocelyn Marie Acosta, a supporter of ousted CJ Sereno, filed a complaint of graft, violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Revised Penal Code against SG Calida before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Although flimsy, fantastic and incredible; democracy grinds in this country.


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