CJ Sereno Impeachment: A Chief Justice Under Siege
Chief Justice. Sometimes inadequately understood and often overly contemplated resulting in an exercise of an extra authority—out-of-the-box thinking what modern thinkers may respectfully call it.
A chief justice leads not only the supreme court but also oversights the entire judiciary branch of government. As powerful as that title emblems, one may find subjectively that chief justices have either a narcissistic personality or just conceited people. How come would they not become conceited when people called them gods and goddesses overlooking the entire judicial activities from their thrones in Padre Faura overreaching to Aparri down to Zamboanga? Its majority decision, however faulty and unacceptable to those outside the Supreme Kingdom, nevertheless forms part of the law of the land.
When Chief Justice Sereno Disagrees Impeachment
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno firmly believes that she, herself, is innocent of the nature of grounds for impeachment pressed on her. A classic response we already heard from A to G (from Accused to Guilty).
The late Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached with eight (8) offenses but was convicted by only one offense: failure to disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth to the public or SALN. On May 29, 2012, the Senate voted 3–20 guilty to convict the late Chief Justice Corona of such offense that from the words of the late Senator Joker Arroyo, “I cannot imagine removing a Chief Justice on account of a SALN.”1
In Corona impeachment, the legal atmosphere encountered two schools of thought—that of from an Ateneo Law School Dean Emeritus Fr. Joaquin Bernas and that of the Senate president that time, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, which pertains to failure to declare SALN of public official is whether tantamount to a culpable violation despite a Foreign Currency Deposit Act that put dollar deposits as absolutely confidential. Fr. Joaquin Bernas considers this failure, not a high crime. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile considers it an impeachable offense. Moreover, from the words of then-Senator Pia Cayetano,2
…minor inaccuracies in the SALN such as parking lots or a unit whose ownership is under contention would not amount to [a] betrayal of public trust. In fact, corrections are allowed under the law but the failure to declare $2.4 million and some P80 million is not minor.
Between Sufficient Grounds and Probable Cause, What Does CJ Sereno Expect?
On August 30, 2017, the House Committee on Justice voted 25-2 declaring CJ Sereno impeachment complaint contained sufficient grounds. While the House is going to determine probable cause in a committee hearing this November 22, 2017, and invited the Chief Justice to attend to it, a report by philstar.com said that the legal team of CJ Sereno was still discussing the said invitation according to CJ’s spokesperson Josa Deinla.3
Granted for the sake of an argument CJ Sereno doesn’t attend the committee hearing and sends her counsels instead, what does she expect? My opinion on this can hurt CJ. Impeachment is a semi-political, semi-legal process. The Constitution bestowed the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment to the House of Representatives. Furthermore, the Constitution directs Congress “to promulgate its rules on impeachment”. With that said, there is no something special about a chief justice or about any impeachable public officials. All shall abide by the rules set by Congress pertaining to impeachment cases. A Sereno court if that really exists, doesn’t have a place for intervention.
CJ Sereno impeachment process is more fortunate than the late Chief Justice Renato Corona impeachment. CJ Sereno impeachment was afforded due process; Corona impeachment, on the other hand, as from the words of the late Senator Joker Arroyo during his speech explaining his vote for a not guilty conviction,
What started in the House was not an impeachment, for an impeachment is an accusation accompanied by necessary formalities, attended by the appropriate solemnities, flanked by the liberties and guarantees that a genuine grand jury proceeding upholds.
When CJ Sereno Impeachment Meets the Senate, Will this Court Convict Her?
As impeachment process is more affected by number than by legal substantiation as conscience and political affiliation more matters than the rule of law as this case would highly likely be interpreted, the answer would likely be, “how many senators will possibly vote for a conviction of guilty?”
What is so special about Chief Justice Sereno? May we know your two-cents worth about it? • MBO | MainbarOnline
1 Speech of Senator Joker Arroyo explaining his verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona, May 29, 2012.
2 Speech of Senator Pia Cayetano Explaining her verdict on Chief Justice Renato Corona, May 29, 2012.
3 Macairan, Evelyn. “Sereno Undecided on Attending Impeachment Hearing“, The Philippine Star. Updated: November 18, 2017, 12:00am.