Public trust demonstrated through elections puts aspirants into public office. However, there are other key government positions that equally invoke considerable power and responsibilities that are filled in through the power of appointment. This politically charged process has always brought in political controversies and squabbles.
Upon assumption into office, the Constitution enjoins public officials to “be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.” In cases of misconduct or abuse of power, the official concerned could be removed from office through impeachment, recall or quo warranto as provided by law or through “people’s power”.
As stipulated by law, among the impeachable officials or those who can be removed through impeachment include the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman. They could be impeached for and on the conviction of the following: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.
As commonsensical it is, to apply quo warranto to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court only complicates the matter and, in this case, instantly rids it with the usual politically nauseating reasons.
To seek the basis of one’s political authority or position further manifests a blot in the democratic process. We can thus raise the question: Is the practice, wherein the president of our country appoints the head of judiciary, really democratic?
In essence, the petition of quo warranto versus a member of the judiciary is a nothing but a political maneuver, an ill-driven tactic that aims to undercut a utilitarian practice that has been legitimately accepted and stipulated in the law of the land. Instead of ousting the Chief Justice by way of a quo warranto proceeding, the Duterte Administration should have let the process of impeachment take its course in Congress, which incidentally would have allowed the government to be transparent and consequently, promote effective public oversight.
Democracy Watch is of the shared belief that the Supreme Court is the last bastion of our democracy. This belief is however shattered with the ruling of the Supreme Court granting the petition for quo warranto filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The Supreme Court has committed a grave travesty as it failed to uphold our Constitution and its ideals. Removing an impeachable officer is solely vested on the hands of Congress.
Democracy Watch urges the government henceforth, to do the right thing — follow the process enshrined in our Constitution on the removal of impeachable officers. May the different branches of government not become a party to the travesty of our Constitution and democratic ideals.
For democracy to prevail, we require functioning and meaningful institutions like a political independent judiciary.
Lastly, Democracy Watch lauds all groups, associations, and individuals who have made their voices heard and advocated for the RULE OF LAW!