Yellow Pad

The majority of the Supreme Court Justices are turning the Court into a dictator. They are making the Supreme Court the absolute ruler.

We must pay attention to two developments that signify the Supreme Court’s transmutation to a dictatorship dressed in judicial garb.

The first development is the Supreme Court’s accommodation of the quo warranto plea of the Solicitor General versus Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

As various concerned quarters have said, the application of the quo warranto in this case is wrong. It is patently illegal, outright unconstitutional. Impeachment is the only way that the Constitution prescribes to remove the Supreme Court Chief Justice (and for that matter the Senior Associate Justice and the Associate Justices).

The quo warranto petition cannot be used to question the performance of Chief Justice Sereno. Hence those who want to destroy Sereno question her qualification from the very beginning, in particular her integrity. They cite Sereno’s failure to submit her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). The SALN has never been an absolutely necessary condition for qualification in the Supreme Court. After all, other Members of the Court have cases of non-submission of SALNs to the JBC, too. Neither can the non-submission of SALN be a test of integrity. How can it be that way when the Constitution does not include it as a requirement to become a Supreme Court Justice?

In addition, the quo warranto action has a prescriptive period of one year. Sereno assumed office in August 2012. The quo warranto petition is thus late by about five years.

Gigo Alampay, a lawyer and public policy specialist, points out the wisdom of having a limited period for the quo warranto action: “Public officials, even those who allegedly should not have been appointed in the first place, make decisions that have very real public impact. So it is in the public interest to have such questions settled in the shortest possible time.

“What happens now to all the decisions where Chief Justice Sereno participated, voted or even penned the decision herself? If her appointment was void ab initio, can lawyers then petition the [Court] for a review of all those cases where their clients lost? Should they now all be set aside and re-litigated? It is a recipe for legal chaos.”

In the event that the Supreme Court grants the quo warranto petition, not only will the Supreme Court violate the Constitution regarding the legal way of removing a Chief Justice. It will also be a virtual act of overthrowing the Constitution by making itself the most dominating apparatus of the State. Approving the quo warranto action against Sereno is the precedent wherein the Supreme Court can remove any member of the Court or the President on the basis of a whim or a lame excuse that absence of integrity is about carelessness in not submitting the SALN, or being rude, or being foul-mouthed.

Some members of the Supreme Court act like they can overrule anything, including the people’s will. Which bring us to the second most disturbing development, pertaining to the protest vis-a-vis the election outcome for vice-president.

On this issue, the fear is reinforced that the Supreme Court is usurping the powers that exclusively belong to other government agencies.

The Presidential Electoral Tribunal or PET (which has the same composition as the Supreme Court) has arbitrarily changed the rules on the vote recount for select precincts. Specifically, the PET has reversed the decision of the Commission on Elections that allows a shading of at least 25% of the ballot’s oval as a valid vote. Now, the PET rules that at least 50% shading of the oval counts as a vote.

This is plainly wrong.

First, it is not the PET that makes the election rules. Second, and worse, the PET changes the rules after the outcome of the elections. In any game, this is most foul.

To be sure, the Supreme Court has reversed its own decisions unjustifiably in the past. This has created rule unpredictability and has contributed to the erosion of the credibility of institutions. But the implication of the change of rules for the vote recount has a far-deeper, far-troubling impact. This is no longer about a legal question. This is a case of denying the people’s vote, the people’s will.

Taken together, the unconstitutional quo warranto action and the PET’s change of the election rules constitute the most serious threat to the institutions of democracy. The members of the Court and the conspirators of the dastardly plots must be made aware that the consequences of their decision on these matters will likewise apply to them. By acting like a dictator, the members of the Supreme Court are setting up the conditions that will not only destabilize society but that will also devour them.

To the Supreme Court: Let conflicts be resolved within the ambit of reason and the rule of law.


Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.