THE LATEST PLOY against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is creative and sounds impressive, but it is, in fact, absolutely witless.
Eligio Mallari, president of the group Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, has requested Solicitor General Jose Calida to file quo warranto proceedings against the Chief Justice. He says it is the easiest way to bring her down.
“Ang impeachment is 10,000 miles away from home. Ito pong quo warranto, it may only be one mile away from home. If you are going home which will you choose? Quo warranto proceedings will be less gruesome, less burdensome,” Mallari explained.
Quo warranto proceedings are taken against
(a) a person who usurps a public office, position or franchise;
(b) a public officer who performs an act constituting forfeiture of a public office; or
(c) an association which acts as a corporation within the Philippines without being legally incorporated or without lawful authority to do so (Sec. 1, Rule 66, Rules of Court).
Mallari says Sereno falls under (a) for not submitting all her SALNs to the Judicial and Bar Council when she was being vetted for the post. He argues that this renders her appointment void ab initio, and that she has been a de facto Chief Justice for the past five years. He claims that Sereno is further disqualified from her position because she allegedly failed the psychological examination and falls short of the JBC’s standard of a “quality mind and heart” for judicial officers.
He is so convinced of this that while waiting for Calida to act, he has gone ahead and filed graft charges against Noynoy Aquino, Sereno, and two members of the JBC for appointing Sereno Chief Justice.
All this shows that Mallari has more passion than smarts. The 1987 Constitution prescribes impeachment alone for the removal of a Chief Justice; quo warranto is not an option. Yet even if it were, a quo warranto petition may be filed within only one year after the official is appointed. It has prescribed for Sereno, who was appointed in 2010.
An action for quo warranto in relation to a public office must be filed within one (1) year after the cause of the ouster, or the right of the petitioner to hold such office or position, arose (Sec. 11, Rule 66, Rules of Court).
One would think that a “vanguard of the Constitution” would know that.
“Quo warranto” means “by what authority,” and I think that is a question rightly asked of Mallari. By what authority does he get to lynch the chief magistrate?
For an anti-corruption activist, he hardly has moral ascendancy. Witness:
In 2002, Mallari was appointed CHR commissioner by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and served under the leadership of chairperson Purificacion Quisumbing. With her and some other commissioners, he was charged with nepotism when his daughter was named head of the CHR media relations division. The Civil Service Commission invalidated her appointment, a decision which was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2014. Isn’t it ironic?
Land Dispute with Farmers
Also in 2014, Mallari figured in a controversial land dispute in Maimpis, Pampanga. He claimed ownership of a 130-hectare agricultural property, which in 1980 cost P2.4M. The land was later distributed to 97 farmers via certificate of land ownership awards (CLOAs) under the CARP law. However, while he was a CHR commissioner, Mallari successfully petitioned for the nullification of the CLOAs before the DAR and the Office of the President. This led to a protest and a violent dispersal which resulted in damage to the farmers’ houses, crops, and roads, and injury to four farmers who were shot by Mallari’s security guards. The House Agrarian Reform Committee of the 16th Congress undertook an inquiry following this incident.
To date, Mallari is in a tussle with the PNB over this property; the case is now lodged with the Supreme Court. He has accused CJ Sereno of “sitting on his case” and wants this to be considered in the impeachment complaint against her. Sereno denied the charge, citing actions taken on his case which is currently pending in the SC First Division.
Unpaid GSIS Loan
Considering Mallari’s ability to purchase a P2.4M property in 1980, his refusal to pay a P34,000 GSIS loan taken out in 1968 is a mystery. He used two parcels of land as collateral for this loan, and has avoided foreclosure by tying up the GSIS in litigation for over 30 years. Because of his “dilatory tactics” that delayed the ruling in favor of the GSIS (by which he violated the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility), the Supreme court suspended him from practicing law for two years.
He is undaunted.
An ally of the VACC, Mallari is also the governor of the Anti-Corruption Movement in the Philippines, organized in Beijing in 1995. He is nothing if not zealous. In the past year alone, he has filed or co-filed
1. A graft and corruption case against Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang for conducting the probe into the Duterte bank accounts.
2. A criminal case against Noynoy Aquino, Florencio Abad, and Janette Garin over the Dengvaxia issue.
3. An impeachment case against Conchita Carpio Morales; and
4. A kidnaping case against Risa Hontiveros for securing the minor-aged witnesses in the Kian de los Santos murder case.
All these, besides his anti-Sereno activities. Mallari is a busy man.
He claims that this quo warranto petition is an independent effort and is not being done in collusion with the VACC. The Manila Bulletin reported on March 3 that “Gadon and Mallari clarified that they are two different camps and ‘there are no coordinated efforts’ between them to remove Sereno from her position.” However, in October 2017, the VACC and the Vanguards went public with their collaboration and vowed to work together to strengthen Gadon’s case. Indeed, they jointly requested the Supreme Court for documents to beef up Gadon’s charges. So yes, there is collusion.
That notwithstanding, the quo warranto petition is flawed from the outset.
The SALN charge is baseless. The JBC has explained that “many applicants failed to submit all of their SALNs,” and that “then congressional representative to the JBC Senator Francis Escudero suggested to relax the rule and to allow substantial compliance. …Sereno submitted three SALNs, covering 2009, 2010, and 2011, which they already considered substantial.”
As for the psych evaluation, the Psychological Association of the Philippines has released a statement in which it declared that:
…statements that the Chief Justice “failed” the psychological evaluation are misleading, as no one “passes” or “fails” a psychological assessment. Instead, a psychologist recommends a person to a position after the assessment indicates that he/she possesses the characteristics that fit the demands of the given position.
…We condemn the unethical practice of using confidential psychological information for purposes of discrediting or damaging a person’s character. Even if psychological test results become public documents, this does not grant permission for anybody to use it for any purpose other than its original intent.
CJ Sereno has answered all these accusations and is waiting for her day in the Senate impeachment court. Her persecutors know that none of the charges against her will prosper there. This is why Eligio Mallari and his vindictive posse are throwing everything and the kitchen sink at her. They have got to make way for a Duterte Chief Justice by hook or by crook. Charter Change, federalism, the dismantling of our democratic institutions, the resurgence of the Marcos dynasty, and the narcissistic appetites of a vulgar, petty, and avaricious man depend on it.
Alas. They will be thwarted.
But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble. – Proverbs 4:18-19