Rough Cuts | Calida discovers a ‘new ocean’

Here is this one quotation that, to us, is very relevant at this point in time in our governance.
Yes, while viewing a DVD movie titled “Snatched” during the weekend, we heard one character saying, “One cannot discover new oceans if he does not want to lose sight of the seashore.”
For us this seems to have jibed with the recent ouster of former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno by her own colleagues at the Supreme Court by granting the Quo Warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Yes, it appears that it was only that “experiment” by the SolGen that lawmakers and those who are in the practice of law including those who crafted the 1987 Constitution, became aware that aside from impeachment by the Senate acting as the court, there is another way of kicking out a sitting Chief Justice or any other impeachable officials. And that is, through a Quo Warranto petition.
Somehow, SolGen Calida might have believed that resorting to impeachment proceedings would have been exhausting and expensive. It would even be more stressful and divisive considering the length of time of the deliberation of the case. Moreover, while the hearing would be in progress tensions could build up among groups supporting the Chief Justice and those who back the impeachment. Thus, the situation could have been explosive. And the SolGen might have foreseen all of these.
We thought then that SolGen Calida was already convinced that former CJ Sereno’s non-submission of complete copies of her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) was a clear violation of a constitutional requirement for applicants to the highest judicial post she was aspiring then.
Thus, Calida could be certain that a person who is supposed to be the epitome of everything legal and constitutional in his/her action being the head of the office that is the final arbiter of the legality and/or constitutionality of any act, has no business occupying the office. So his Quo Warranto petition.
In our earlier column before the High Court made its decision ousting Sereno, our take was exactly that of the position taken by Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio. That is, that he was convinced the former lady chief magistrate was guilty of violating the mandate of submitting all the SALNs during the years prescribed by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
We also assumed then that majority of the En Banc will have the same position as that of Carpio. But we believed they will not proceed to ousting the Chief Justice by themselves. Instead, we thought they would submit to the Senate constituted as the impeachment court, their decision finding the Chief Justice guilty of not complying with the requirement. We assumed then that doing such will help the senators render the appropriate judgment on the actuation of Sereno.
But no, eight of the Supreme Court’s 14 justices decided to oust Sereno themselves. What followed was the initial noisy disagreements of those who believed the eight magistrates did not do the right thing. Now there is a pending Motion for Reconsideration by the ousted former chief magistrate. But considering the explanations made by the eight who favored the Quo Warranto on their action it would take a legal miracle for them to change their decision.
As always, once the En Banc decision will be made final after the resolution of the Sereno motion for reconsideration, the same will form part of the country’s jurisprudence. It could even be a major question in the next bar examination.
And going back to the earlier quote we are postulating in the beginning of this subject of ours, was not Calida the personification of the man who decided to “discover new oceans by not fearing to lose sight of the seashore?”
Yes, he is, and that “new ocean” is the Quo Warranto Petition that the SolGen filed with the High Court to oust what he correctly assumed an erring Chief Justice who should not have been recommended for appointment by the JBC in the first place, much more appointed by the President if he was more circumspect in scrutinizing the aspirant’s qualifications.
And the “shore” that Calida was willing to lose his sight? Well, what else but the institutional belief that the only way to oust a Chief Justice is by impeachment.
But there was one thing we have noted starting from the filing of the Calida petition up to the decision by the En Banc to oust Sereno, and even until today.
We haven’t heard a single word from one of the more respected Constitutionalists in the country, former Ateneo Law Dean Fr. Joaquin Bernas. Many would have loved to hear or read his discourse on the issue.
Does his silence mean an admission that the framers of the 1987 Charter missed out on the effect of the grammatical construction in that provision on the supposed only way of oust a Chief Justice – “…may be removed by impeachment…?”
We are just asking.

Posted in Opinion