(Excerpts from dissenting opinion)
This Petition should have been dismissed outright and not given due course. It does not deserve space in judicial deliberation within our constitutional democratic space. Even if the Chief Justice has failed our expectations, quo warranto, as a process to oust an impeachable officer and a sitting member of the Supreme Court, is a legal abomination. It creates a precedent that gravely diminishes judicial independence and threatens the ability of this Court to assert the fundamental rights of our people. We render this Court subservient to an aggressive Solicitor General. We render those who present dissenting opinions unnecessarily vulnerable to powerful interests.
A better reading of the Constitution requires us to read words and phrases in the context of the entire legal document. Thus, the general grant of original jurisdiction for quo warranto actions to this Court in Article VIII, Section 5(1) should be read in the context of the provisions of Article XI, Sections 2 and 3, as well as the principles of judicial independence and integrity inherent in a constitutional order implied in Article VIII, Sections 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 of the Constitution.
The solution to address the problems relating to a Chief Justice is for this Court to call her out or for her to be tried using the impeachment process if any of her actions amounts to the grave offenses enumerated in the Constitution.
She also has the alternative to have the grace and humility to resign from her office to protect the institution from a leadership which may not have succeeded to address the divisiveness and the weaknesses within.
Quo warranto, as used in this case, will amount to a “removal” of an impeachable public officer. Thus, Article VIII, Section 5(1) should be read alongside Article XI, Section 2 of the Constitution. The distinction relating to when offenses were committed is not relevant for purposes of the process for removal. Concededly, actions prior to the assumption of office may amount to a crime. However, it is only upon the end of the tenure of the impeachable officer or after her removal may she be held to account.
The Constitutional design is to balance the accountability of an impeachable public officer with the necessity for a degree of immunity while in service that will assure the independence inherent in a republican government.
The gist of the present majority opinion is that respondent may be removed from her position as Chief Justice via quo warranto proceedings and that this Court can take cognizance of the present petition for quo warranto pursuant to Article VIII, Section 5(1).
Fundamentally, when construing the meaning of the Constitution, it is not only the literal meaning of words and phrases that should be taken into consideration.
Since it is the Constitution that we are reading, the context of the words and phrases (1) within the entire document, (2) in the light of the textual history as seen in past Constitutions ratified by our people, (3) within the meaning of precedents of this Court, and (4) in the light of contemporary circumstances, which may not have been in the contemplation of those who ratified the Constitution, as well as those who participated in the deliberation and decision of those who voted precedents in the light of their written opinions, must likewise be considered.
Even assuming that this Court can take cognizance of the petition, an action for quo warranto is limited in time regardless of who institutes the action. It can only be instituted within one (1) year after the cause of action arises.
It is in the public’s best interest that questions regarding title to public office be resolved and laid to rest as soon as possible. This is the rationale behind the one (1)-year prescriptive period. Public service demands stability and consistency.
Petitioner claims that respondent’s failure to submit copies of her Statements of Assets and Liabilities to the Judicial and Bar Council ultimately meant that she failed “to pass the test of integrity.”
I cannot agree to this blanket finding, which is based simply on the nonexistence of the Statements of Assets and Liabilities.
Under the guise of this Court’s power of supervision over the Judicial and Bar Council, the majority wants to supplant their own finding of respondent’s lack of integrity over that of the Judicial and Bar Council’s determination of respondent as a person of proven integrity.
This Court’s power of supervision over the Judicial and Bar Council cannot be read as authority to interfere with the Judicial and Bar Council’s discretion in performing its constitutional mandate. At most, this Court’s supervision is administrative in nature.
This dissent, however, should not be read as a shield for the respondent to be accountable for her actions.
It was unfortunate that this seemed to have created the impression that she rallied those in political movements with their own agenda, tolerating attacks on her colleagues in social and traditional media. She may have broken the expectations we have had on parties to cases by speaking sub judice on the merits of the Quo Warranto Petition and her predictions on its outcome. She may not have met the reasonable expectation of a magistrate and a Chief Justice that, whatever the reasons and even at the cost of her own personal discomfort, she-as the leader of this Court-should not be the first to cause public shame and humiliation of her colleagues and the institution she represents.
It is with all conviction that I vote to dismiss this Quo Warranto Petition. In my view, it should not even have been given due course. I am convinced that the majority opinion will weaken the role of the Judiciary to deliver social justice and assert our fundamental rights.
I grieve the doctrine of this case. It should be overturned in the near future.MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN, Associate Justice / BY THE MANILA TIMES ON