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Supreme Court ousts Sereno in landmark ruling

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court on Friday, May 11, ousted its chief justice as it granted a pleading alleging her failure to meet the integrity requirement for members of the judiciary.

SC spokesperson Theodore Te, in a press briefing, said the high court, voting 8-6 in a special en banc session, granted Solicitor General Jose Calida's petition for quo warranto, which seeks the invalidation of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's appointment to the country's highest judiciary post in 2012.

"Wherefore, the petition for quo warranto is granted. Respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno is found disqualified from and is hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the Office of the Chief Justice. Accordingly, respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno is ousted and excluded therefrom," the decision read.

Te said the ruling is "immediately executory" and that the Judicial and Bar Council has been directed to commence with the application process for Sereno's replacement.

READ: Statement read by Atty. Theodore Te on historic vote on oust-Sereno petition.

The SC justices who voted in favor of the quo warranto petition were:

  • Teresita Leonardo-De Castro
  • Diosdado Peralta
  • Lucas Bersamin
  • Francis Jardeleza
  • Samuel Martires
  • Noel Tijam
  • Andres Reyes Jr
  • Alexander Gesmundo

Those who voted against the oust plea were:

  • Antonio Carpio
  • Presbitero Velasco
  • Perlas Bernabe
  • Mariano Del Castillo
  • Marvic Leonen
  • Benjamin Caguioa

Half, or four, of the justices who voted for the ouster were appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte; three by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a known Duterte ally; and one by former President Benigno Aquino III, who also appointed Sereno.

Among the six who voted against the quo warranto, three were Arroyo appointees and the other three were appointed by Aquino.


On the issue of whether or not quo warranto is the proper remedy to oust Sereno, nine voted in the affirmative -- Velasco, De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza, Martires, Tijam, Reyes, and Gesmundo -- and the rest voted against.

On the issue of whether or not Sereno violated the Constitution for failing to file her SALNs, nine voted yes -- Carpio, De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza,  Martires, Tijam, Reyes, and Gesmundo. The rest did not express their opinion on the issue.

Sereno, newly back at work from a two-month leave, presided over the full court meeting but recused herself from deliberations on the quo warranto pleading.

Latin for "by what authority," quo warranto is a legal remedy that can be initiated against a "person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise."

‘Seriously considering appeal’

Josa Deinla, a spokesperson for Sereno, admitted no longer getting surprised by the outcome of the voting.

"Hindi rin namin ikinagulat iyong lumabas na boto sa en banc kasi matagal na namin nababalitaan, umuugong iyong mga numero na yari na raw ang decision ng ating mahistrado," she said in an interview on News To Go.

Still, Deinla noted how the vote was "very close," separated only by two votes.

"Indikasyon ito na sana kung nag-inhibit ang mga mahistradong nagpakita ng bias, sana na-ensure na impartial at objective at mananaig ang tama," she said.

The lawyer said their camp was "seriously considering filing a motion for reconsideration considering that the fight was a very close call."

"We know for a fact that a few times the SC has changed its mind in high-profile cases. Umaasa tayo na magbabago pa ng isip ang ating mga mahistrado," she added.

SolGen petition

Calida's petition, filed March 5, accuses Sereno of non-compliance with the requirement of the Judicial and Bar Council, the body which screens and shortlists applicants to judiciary posts for the president's perusal, on the submission of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

The JBC required of applicants for the chief justice post all SALNs while in government service.

Sereno, an SC associate justice when former Chief Justice Renato Corona was convicted by the Senate impeachment court, submitted to the JBC her SALNs from 2009, 2010, and 2011.

She taught law at the University of the Philippines (UP), a state institution, for 20 years.

Calida further alleged that Sereno failed to file her SALNs as required by law for 11 times in her two-decade tenure in UP.

Seeking the petition's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, Sereno argued, among others, in her March 19 comment that impeachable officers can only be removed from office through impeachment at the legislature.

This is a line that would echo among her supporters, former justices of the SC, some lawmakers, and law professors and deans.

Citing "bias" and "animosity," the chief justice had also asked but failed to convince six of her colleagues in the SC to inhibit from hearing and deciding Calida's petition.

These are Associate Justices Teresita de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Noel Tijam, Francis Jardeleza, Lucas Bersamin, and recently, Samuel Martires.

On April 10, the SC heard oral arguments on the petition for quo warranto in its Baguio session hall. For over five hours, Sereno -- and Calida, occasionally -- faced questioning from the SC justices.

Sereno also faces possible impeachment at the House of Representatives and a Senate impeachment trial, her preferred—and what she said is the only allowable—mode of ouster. — MDM/KG/KBK/LBG, GMA News