By REY G. PANALIGAN
For the first time since its creation in 1901, the Supreme Court yesterday issued an unprecedented decision that unseated its Chief Justice on a disqualification and ouster petition filed by government lawyers.
During its special full court session, eight SC justices voted to unseat Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno as chief justice and head of the country’s Judiciary. Six justices dissented.
“The decision is immediately executory without need of further action from the court,” the SC said. It said the position of Chief Justice is declared vacant and the Judicial and Bar Council was ordered to start the application and nomination process.
Sereno’s lawyers said they will file a motion to reconsider the decision.
Legal circles said that with the ouster of Sereno, the six articles of impeachment now pending with the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives become moot and academic.
Sereno was appointed SC associate justice on Aug. 16, 2010. Two years later on Aug. 24, 2012, she was appointed Chief Justice.
Had she not been ousted, she would be serving as head of the Judiciary until 2030 when she reaches age 70, the mandatory retirement age for members of the Judiciary.
The dispositive portion of the SC decision: “Wherefore, the petition for quo warranto is granted. Respondent Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno is found disqualified from and his 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 position of the Chief Justice is declared vacant and the Judicial and Bar Council is directed to commence the application and nomination process,” the SC said. “This decision is immediately executory without need of further action from the Court.”
“Respondent Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno is ordered to show cause within ten days from receipt hereof why she should not be sanctioned for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct for transgressing the sub judice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court,” the SC added.
The decision on the granting of the petition, a copy of which was not immediately available, was written by Justice Noel G. Tijam. The seven other magistrates who concurred were Justices Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Alexander G. Gesmundo.
Those who voted to deny the quo warranto petition were Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., Mariano C. del Castillo, Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.
On the issue of whether or not quo warranto is the proper remedy to challenge Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice, the voting was 9-5. Velasco, De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza, Martires, Tijam, Reyes, and Gesmundo voted that quo warranto is the proper remedy.
Carpio, Del Castillo, Perlas Bernabe, Leonen, and Caguio voted against. It was not known, however, if they said the proper remedy is impeachment.