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Law profs say quo warranto vs. Sereno unconstitutional

A day before the Supreme Court (SC) is expected to decide whether or not to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, over a hundred law deans and professors united in calling for the "only" constitutional way to oust the top judge: impeachment.

"Let the impeachment of the Chief Justice take its course as the Constitution dictates. Let the trial in the Senate sitting as an impeachment court begin. Allow the Chief Justice to defend herself in the impeachment trial," over 130 law faculties said in a statement published in The Philippine Star on Thursday.

Without naming names, the law deans and professors expressed "deep concern" over the ouster bid against Sereno other than impeachment.

The one existing attempt to remove Sereno from office other than impeachment is Solicitor General Jose Calida's petition for quo warranto, which seeks the invalidation of her appointment as chief justice over an alleged lack of integrity.

"We are not questioning the motivation, integrity and patriotism of anyone involved in this process but we must remind them that the integrity of the process is as important as its result," the law faculties said.

They contended, like Sereno and other critics of Calida's petition, that impeachment at the House of Representatives and conviction at the Senate is the only allowable way to unseat a sitting top magistrate.

"Any other means would be unconstitutional," the statement said.

"It will expose those involved to the same vicious cycle of extrajudicial removal process which will subvert the constitutional check and balance and endanger judicial independence."

The statement was signed by, among others, retired Court of Appeals justice Hector Hofileña, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, former University of the Philippines College of Law dean Pacifico Agabin, De La Salle University College of Law dean Jose Manuel Diokno, and Far Eastern University Institute of Law dean Melencio Sta. Maria.

They urged the senators, who would form an impeachment court should the charges against Sereno be elevated from the House of Representatives, to be "conscious" of the "far-reaching implication" of their decision in a possible trial.

"It will become a precedent of how impeachment will be wielded against sitting Justices of the Supreme Court and members of critical Constitutional bodies, and even the President of the Philippines," they said.

Sereno is back at work at the SC after taking an "indefinite leave" that lasted for little over two months.

She will preside over Friday's en banc session but will inhibit from deliberations on Calida's petition, her spokesperson said on Wednesday. —KG/NB, GMA News