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Supreme Court’s Order For The Chief Justice To Personally Appear At The Oral Argument Is Highly Irregular

Unusual and unprecedented.

Repugnant to the rules of court and the constitution.

Highly irregular and is intended to publicly embarrass the chief justice.

These are the things that easily come to our mind regarding the recent order issued by the Supreme Court in connection with the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

A quo warranto petition is a special remedy provided under the rules of court that is availed of in order to oust and disqualify a person from the public office he or she is presently holding.

In an order dated April 3, 2018, the Supreme Court En Banc set the said petition for oral argument on April 10, 2018.

Surprisingly, the high court imposed conditions before the said oral argument can proceed with warning that in case they are not complied with, the scheduled orals will be cancelled.

The first condition is that the chief justice should personally appear before the Supreme Court and answer questions from the members of court.

This requirement tramples upon the inviolable right of Sereno to be represented by a counsel of her own choice.

It is elementary that in every court proceedings, a party shall be represented by a competent lawyer. This is regardless of the nature of the case and irrespective of the court where the case is being heard.

The fact that Sereno is the chief justice of the country does not deprive her of the right and freedom to choose who will appear and argue in her behalf specially in the proceedings before the highest, most powerful court in the land.

Sereno is a brilliant and decorated lawyer. She knows the law and she definitely knows how to argue her cause. But that is beside the point. As respondent, she can freely choose whether to personally argue her case or let another lawyer to speak and answer for her.

The supposedly intelligent justices of the Supreme Court know this for sure and it is doubtful if there were instances in the past where a party to a case was required to personally answer queries from the magistrates during an oral argument.

The motive of the justices is obvious. They want to corner the embattled chief justice, gang-up on her, reprimand her and subject her to public humiliation. In short, it is a trap. It is an ambush.

But, wait, there is more.

Another condition imposed by the court is that Sereno must expressly acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to act, hear and decide on the reliefs prayed for by the contending parties in the said case.

This is illogical and a scheme to defeat the reservation made by the chief justice as to the jurisdiction of the court.

Sereno correctly averred that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to take due course of the quo warranto petition and assert that, as an impeachable public officer under the constitution, she can only be removed through the process of impeachment.

Generally, the filing of a pleading in court or the appearance of a party therein is an implied recognition of the court’s jurisdiction over the person of that party and over the case. The exception is when the party files a pleading and appears in court for the sole and specific purpose of questioning its jurisdiction. This is what legal practitioners call pleading ad cautelam and special appearances which have been long recognized.

This is what Sereno did when she filed her comment to the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida. She made a clear and unequivocal manifestation that her act of filing a written comment and participating through counsel in the oral argument before the Supreme Court is without prejudice to her vehement objection to the court’s jurisdiction over the petition.

But the bullies in judiciary do not want to acknowledge this legal move by the chief justice and are hell-bent on blackmailing and forcing her to admit the court’s authority to hear and rule on the petition despite its glaring and inherent defect.

We should be vigilant in the coming days and be mindful of the illegal and unconstitutional maneuverings of the dishonorable men and women of the so-called last bulwark of democracy.

We should let the justices know that we, the sovereign Filipino people, are standing with Chief Justice Sereno.