Contrasting opinions have been verbally expressed and written regarding the Quo Warranto petition granted by the Supreme Court against its Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Sr. Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s dissenting opinion favors instead an impeachable offense by CJ Sereno’s concealment of her SALN during her stint at UP, but demurring nevertheless to a Quo Warranto petition which he believes, if approved, will supplant and usurp the power and responsibility of the Senate as impeachment court.
Let us set aside the legal viewpoints of the opposing sides in the mean time. We have read and heard so much of them already. The ambiguity of which, anyway, besieges the same cause-and-effect dilemma in the riddle of “which comes first, the chicken or the egg?”—and deal instead with the looming consequence of such serious and monumental decision in the granting of Quo Warranto petition to future circumstance where any head of the three branches of government can not see eye-to-eye with the other or all.
The Supreme Court, with this stunning decision unwittingly opens the Pandora’s box. It paves the way for an effortless maneuvering to oust impeachable officials in a whim and preempt an exhausting and time consuming impeachment but legal procedure as mandated in the Constitution to conveniently reach the same objective.
Who could say that the next president would not instigate or incite the same Quo Warranto petition against a Chief Justice whom he did not choose or appoint to the position in the first place, more so when perceived not in sync with and as a matter-of-fact obstacle to his bureaucratic position, now that the gate is open for it?
Who could prevent the Solicitor General in the future, on the behest of the President, from filing another Quo Warranto petition against another Chief Justice, or any of the Constitutional Officials now that the road leading to the ouster of them has been well paved by the Supreme Court?
The Quo Warranto petition is likened to the Sword of Damocles—it is a weapon—a sword held only by a single strand of horsehair hanging directly above the heads of the Chief and Associate Justices, and all other lesser officials holding Constitutional positions. They face this reprehensible disqualification petition for any false move they make against the president.
The significance of this hanging sword, however, is not the fall itself of the sword that kills, but rather, the continuous threat of the hanging sword—the Quo Warranto petition, which represents a sense of constant fear that the Chief Justice, et al have to endure for the rest of their terms that makes it far more disturbing. This threat ensures the mastery of control over them by the next presidents to come.
This can be the start of a “constrained allegiance” by the presumed independent Chief and Associate Justices and the others to the sitting president. This is dangerous as it may lead to another “Constitutional Dictatorship”—though not that explicit, but comparable somehow to what dictator Marcos did with the Supreme Court under his Martial Rule—it became his compliant stamping pad. This time with the Quo Warranto petition lurking over its shoulder, the Supreme Court may just be the same.
With the immense power of the president to direct offices under him, it is not difficult at all to unearth or even contrive damaging evidence no matter how mischievous it may seem against the soon-to-be victims of this petition. As the saying goes; “when there is a will, there is a way” has been carried out too many times in the past, and one lamentable victim of such is our very own “kababayan”—Senator Laila de Lima, whose only sin perhaps was opening her big mouth against the administration.