Carpio: SC rewrites Constitution with Sereno ouster

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 12) — The House of Representatives impeaches, and the Senate convicts.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in his 25-page dissenting opinion released Friday, made this statement, saying impeachment is the only method allowed under the Constitution to remove a member of the court.

"To allow any other method is to rewrite the Constitution. To permit this quo warranto petition to remove an incumbent member of this Court is to violate the Constitution," he said.

Instead, the court should have treated the quo warranto petition as an administrative investigation, Carpio said. Its findings and recommendation on the case will then be submitted to Congress, where an impeachment case against former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is ongoing.

On Friday, voting 8-6, the High Court ousted Sereno based on the quo warranto petition questioning her qualifications for the post. Carpio was one of the six justices who ruled against the petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

The senior associate justice said since failure to submit Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) constitutes betrayal of public trust, an impeachable offense, only Congress can remove Sereno on these grounds.

"Since the repeated failure to file the SALN constitutes culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, it is immaterial if the failure to file the SALN is committed before appointment to an impeachable office," he said. 

However, he added it is up to Congress "to determine if the culpable violation of the Constitution or betrayal of public trust, committed before appointment as an impeachable officer, warrants removal from office."

The House justice panel has prepared the articles of impeachment against Sereno, and it is up for submission to the plenary. The Supreme Court decision on the quo warranto petition came before the  resumption of the House of Representatives on May 15.

"No court, not even this Court, can assume the exclusive mandate of Congress to remove impeachable officers from office," he maintained.

The magistrate also quoted from a 2003 commentary of constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, who said the impeachment process is "the Constitution's strongest guarantee of security of tenure. This guarantee  blocks the use of other legal ways of ousting an officer."

Carpio, along with eight other justices, agreed that Sereno violated the Constitution for her failure to file her SALNs for 10 years before she applied for the chief justice post in 2012.