Panelo On Sereno Ouster: ‘The Law May Be Harsh, But It Is The Law’

“The law may be harsh, but it is the law.”

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo made this remark following the Supreme Court’s decision affirming the quo warranto petition, which ousted Ma. Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice.

“The Constitution gives express mandate to the Supreme Court to interpret the law. It has done so in this case. It behooves everybody to respect and bow to the majesty of the law. Dura lex sed lex (the law may be harsh, but it is the law,” Panelo said.

Panelo also emphasized that the SC decision highlights the importance of “integrity and accountability of public officials” despite partisan politics.

He said that President Rodrigo R. Duterte will remain committed to serve and protect the people by ensuring that laws are “faithfully observed.”

“While the two other branches of the government continue to perform the roles assigned to them by the Constitution, the President stays committed to his constitutional task in serving and protecting the people and to ensure that all laws are faithfully observed, and effect genuine reforms in the bureaucracy for the betterment of the Filipino people,” Panelo said.

Panelo also described the SC decision as “the final chapter in the drawn-out drama” which according to him, a substantial part was of Sereno’s own making.

On May 11, the High Court, voting 8-6, ruled that Sereno’s failure to submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) as law professor at the University of the Philippines made her ineligible to hold her position.

Sereno’s ouster from the High Court marks the first time that a chief justice was removed through a quo warranto petition.

Expected outcome

The High Court’s decision to affirm its ruling came as no surprise for several lawmakers at the House of Representatives.

In an interview on Tuesday, House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali said it was already expected that the High Court would uphold its decision granting the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) which nullified Sereno’s appointment as chief magistrate.

Umali said the impeachment case against Sereno would be deemed moot and academic.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, for his part, urged the public to respect the SC decision, noting that the High Court is mandated by the Constitution as the final arbiter of legal and constitutional questions.

Meanwhile, Malacañang wished Sereno good luck as a private citizen.

Citing the court decision as final and executory, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque appealed to the people to respect the decision of the highest court of the land.

Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte will respect and will implement the SC ruling “because the President is the implementer of the law and Supreme Court decisions”. (PNA)