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Umali to critics of SC decision: ‘Mag-Justice muna sila bago sila magsalita’

House Committee on Justice chair Reynaldo Umali on Sunday said lawyers and law deans have no right to criticize the Supreme Court's decision to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, Umali, whose committee handled the impeachment complaint against Sereno, pointed out that only incumbent members of the Supreme Court are mandated to interpret the law and the Constitution.

"Sa mga abogado, maging law deans na nagsasabi na mali yung Korte Suprema, eh mag-Justice muna sila ng Korte Suprema bago sila magsalita. Dahil dito sa atin ang pinakamataas na hukuman ay ang Korte Suprema," he said.

"Sila ang inatasan ng Konstitusyon na mag-interpret ng law and Constitution, hindi ang mga law deans, hindi yung mga former justices, [kundi] yung mga incumbent and sitting members of the Supreme Court," he added.

On Friday, the Supreme Court voted 8-6 granting the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against Sereno questioning the validity of her appointment in 2012.

But the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the mandatory organization for all Philippine lawyers, said it may file a motion for consideration or seek a reversal of the court's ruling.

“This is pursuant to our position that only the Senate, assembled as an impeachment court, has the power to dismiss an incumbent Justice of the Supreme Court on questions pertaining to his or her alleged lack of integrity,” said IBP president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo.

Umali, however, pointed out that both the impeachment and quo warranto are constitutionally-allowed methods to remove any official, regardless if they are impeachable or not.

"Malinaw na parehong nasa Konstitusyon ang quo warranto maging ang impeachment. At malinaw na malinaw sa Konstitusyon na ang mga impeachable officers 'may' be removed by impeachment," he said.

Umali said the use of the word "may" in the Constitution, means there are other ways to remove an official other than an impeachment proceeding and one of these is the quo warranto action.

"Basta disqualified ka, pwede kang tanggalin through a quo warranto petition and that is the power vested in the Supreme Court, hindi sa Congress 'yan, hindi sa Senado yan," he added.

In the same interview, Umali said he is considering no longer transmitting to the Senate the articles of impeachment that his committee has prepared against Sereno.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas had said the House of Representatives will wait for the final ruling of the Supreme Court on the quo warranto petition against Sereno before it makes its next move. —ALG, GMA News