FLAG STATEMENT: “Final nail in the coffin of judicial independence”

The FREE LEGAL ASSISTANCE GROUP (FLAG) condemns in the strongest terms the decision of the Supreme Court granting the Solicitor General’s quo warranto petition against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Quo Warranto is a legal remedy designed to remove a usurper or intruder from office within one year from his or her unlawful assumption of office. Quo warranto was never intended to be a substitute for impeachment. Yet that is exactly what the Solicitor General did when he filed the quo warranto case against Chief Justice Sereno six years after she assumed office and on exactly the same grounds as her impeachment case. In doing so, he pre-empted her impeachment trial before the Senate, usurped the power of Congress to remove an impeachable official, and denied the Chief Justice the opportunity to defend herself in a public trial. With the cooperation of a majority of th e justices of the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General’s action has been validated, and may now be used to go after other impeachable officials who, in the eyes of the President, do not support his administration.

The granting of the quo warranto petition is the final nail in the coffin of judicial independence. It signals a new era of judicial obsequiousness to the executive and legislative departments. No longer can we rely on the judiciary to have, in the words of then Associate Justie J.B.L. Reyes of the Supreme Court, “no master but law, no guide but conscience, no aim but justice.” With this decision, the Court has not only emasculated its own powers, it has abdicated its great role as guardian of the Constitution.

FLAG calls upon the members of the Court who voted in favor of the Solicitor General to reconsider their votes, to set aside their personal feelings and sentiments, and resolve this case purely and squarely on the basis of the Constitution.

Quezon City, Philippines, 11 May 2018.