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Republic of the Philippines vs.

Sereno The Republic accordingly seeks the nullification of respondent’s appointment,

G.R. No. 237428 asserting that her failure to file the required disclosures and her failure to submit the
May 11, 2018 same to the Judicial and Bar Council show that she is not possessed of “proven
integrity” demanded of every aspirant to the Judiciary. As such, Petitioner file a case
for quo warranto against the incumbent Chief Justice as ineligible to hold the highest
FACTS: The Respondent served as a professor at the U.P College of Law until 2006, post in the Judiciary for failing to regularly disclose her assets, liabilities and net worth
and thereafter as practitioner in various outfits including as legal counsel for the as a member of the career service prior to her appointment as an Associate Justice, and
Republic until 2009. She also submitted her application for the position of Associate later as Chief Justice, of the Supreme Court, in violation of the Constitution, the Anti-
Justice of the Supreme Court in July 2010. A month after, or on August 13, 2010, Graft Law, and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and
respondent was appointed by then President Benigno C. Aquino III as Associate Employees.
Justice, and on August 16, 2010, respondent took her oath of office as such. ISSUES: 1) Whether the Court can assume jurisdiction and give due recourse to the
The position of the Chief Justice was declared vacant in 2012. The JBC announcement instant petition for quo warranto against respondent who is an impeachable officer and
was preceded by an En Banc meeting held on June 4, 2012 wherein the JBC agreed to against whom an impeachment complaint has already been filed with the House of
require the applicants for the Chief Justice position to submit, instead of the usual Reipresentatives
submission of the SALNs for the last two years of public service, all previous SALNs 2) Whether the petition is outrightly dismissible on the ground of prescription
up to December 31, 2011 for those I government service.
3) Whether respondent failed to comply with the submission of SALNs as required by
Respondent accepted several nominations for the position of Chief Justice and in the JBC; and if so, whether the failure to submit SALNs to the JBC voids the
support of her nomination, respondent submitted to the ORSN her SALNs for the year nomination and appointment of respondent as Chief Justice
2009, 2010, and 2011. Respondent also executed a waiver of confidentiality of her
local and foreign bank accounts. HELD: 1) The Court has jurisdiction over the instant Petition for Quo Warranto.

On the scheduled date of the interview on July 24, 2012, despite respondent’s Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution, in part, provides that the Supreme Court
submission of only 3 SALNs, Atty. Pascual prepared a Report – Re: Documentary shall exercise original jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari, prohibition,
Requirements and SALN of candidates for the Position of Chief Justice of the mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus. Relatedly, Section 7, Rule 66 of the
Philippines wherein respondent was listed as applicant No. 14 with an opposite Rules of Court provides that the venue of an action for quo warranto, when
annotation that she has “COMPLETE REQUIREMENTS” and a note stating “Letter commenced by the Solicitor General, is either the Regional Trial Court in the City of
7/23/12 – considering that her government records in the academe are more than 15 Manila, in the Court of Appeals, or in Supreme Court. In the instant case, direct resort
years old, it is reasonable to consider it infeasible to retrieve all those files.” to the Court is justified considering that the action for quo warranto questions the
qualification of no less than a Member of the Court. The issue of whether a person
A month after respondent’s acceptance of her nomination, or on August 24, 2012, usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office is a matter of
respondent was appointed by then President Aquino III as Chief Justice of the Supreme public concern over which the government takes special interest as it obviously cannot
Court.. allow an intruder or impostor to occupy a public position. Further, it is apparent that
On August 30, 2017, or five years after respondent’s appointment as Chief Justice, an the instant petition is one of first impression and of paramount importance to the
impeachment complaint was filed by Atty. Larry Gadon against respondent with the public in the sense that the qualification, eligibility and appointment of an incumbent
Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives for culpable violation of the Chief Justice, the highest official of the Judiciary, are being scrutinized through an
Constitution, corruption, high crimes, and betrayal of public trust. The complaint also action for quo warranto.
alleged that respondent failed to make truthful declarations in her SALNs.
Moreover, Quo warranto and impeachment can proceed independently and remedy of quo warranto is intended to prevent a continuing exercise of an authority
simultaneously. The term “quo warranto” is Latin for “by what authority.” Therefore, unlawfully asserted. Indeed, quo warranto serves to end a continuous usurpation. Thus,
as the name suggests, quo warranto is a writ of inquiry. It determines whether an no statute of limitation applies to the action. Needless to say, no prudent and just court
individual has the legal right to hold the public office he or she occupies. As such, would allow an unqualified person to hold public office, much more the highest
judgment is limited to ouster or forfeiture and may not be imposed retroactively upon position in the Judiciary.
prior exercise of official or corporate duties. Quo warranto and impeachment are, thus,
not mutually exclusive remedies and may even proceed simultaneously. The existence Finally, it bears to stress that this Court finds it more important to rule on the merits
of other remedies against the usurper does not prevent the State from commencing a of the novel issues imbued with public interest presented before the Court than to
quo warranto proceeding. dismiss the case outright merely on technicality.

On another issue, there can be no forum shopping in this case despite the pendency of 3) Respondents chronically failed to file her SALNs and thus violated the Constitution,
the impeachment proceedings before the House of Representatives. The cause of the law and the Code of Judicial Conduct. A member of the Judiciary who commits
action in the two proceedings are unequivocally different. Likewise, the reliefs sough such violations cannot be deemed to be a person of proven integrity. Also, the
in the two proceedings are different. In short, respondent in a quo warranto proceeding invalidity of respondent’s appointment springs from her lack of qualifications. Her
shall be adjudged to cease from holding a public office, which he/she is ineligible to inclusion in the shortlist of candidates for the position of Chief Justice does not negate,
hold. On the other hand, in impeachment, a conviction for the charges of impeachable nor supply her with the requisite proof of integrity. She should have been disqualified
offenses shall result to the removal of the respondent from the public office that he/she at the outset. It must be underscored that the JBC En Banc included respondent in the
is legally holding. In fine, forum shopping and litis pendentia are not present and a shortlist for the position of Chief Justice without deliberating her July 23, 2012 Letter.
final decision in one will not strictly constitute as res judicata to the other. Without prejudice to this Court’s ruling in A.M. No. 17-11-12-SC and A.M. No. 17-
11-17-SC, the JBC En Banc cannot be deemed to have considered respondent eligible
2) No. Prescription does not lie against the State. Reference must necessarily be had because it does not appear that respondent’s failure to submit her SALNs was squarely
to Section 3, Rule 66 which makes it compulsory for the Solicitor General to addressed by the body. Her inclusion in the shortlist of nominees and subsequent
commence a quo warranto action: appointment to the position do not estop the Republic or this Court from looking into
her disqualifications. Verily, no estoppel arises where the representation or conduct of
Sec. 2. When Solicitor General or public prosecutor must commence the party sought to be estopped is due to ignorance founded upon an innocent mistake.
action. – The Solicitor General or a public prosecutor, when directed Again, without prejudice to the outcome of the pending administrative matter, it
by the President of the Philippines, or when upon complaint or appears that respondent’s inclusion was made under the erroneous belief that she
otherwise he has good reason to believe that any case specified in complied with all the legal requirements concomitant to the position.
the preceding section can be established by proof must commence
such action. Moreover, as the qualification of proven integrity goes into the barest
standards set forth under the Constitution to qualify as a Member of the Court, the
In the case of People ex rel. Moloney v. Pullman’s Palace Car Co., the Court subsequent nomination and appointment to the position will not qualify and otherwise
emphasize that the State is not bound by statute of limitations nor by laches, excluded candidate. In other words, the inclusion of respondent in the shortlist of
acquiescence or unreasonable delay on the part of its officer. Moreover, jurisprudence nominees submitted to the President cannot override the minimum Constitutional
across the United States likewise richly reflect that when the Solicitor General files qualifications. Neither will the President’s act of appointment cause to qualify
a quo warranto petition in behalf of the people and where the interests of the respondent. To reiterate with emphasis, when the JBC mistakenly or wrongfully
public is involved, the lapse of time presents no effective bar. accepted and nominated respondent, the President, through his alter egos in the JBC,
Lastly, prescription does not lie in this case which can be deduced from the very commits the same mistake and the President’s subsequent act to appoint respondent
purpose of an action for quo warranto. In People vs. City Whittier, it explains that the cannot have any curative effect.
The Petition for Quo Warranto is GRANTED. Respondent Maria Lourdes P.A UNLAFULLY HOLDING and EXERCISING THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF
Sereno is found DISQUALIFIED from and is hereby adjudged GUILTY of JUSTICE. Accordingly, Respondent is OUSTED and EXCLUDED therefrom.