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Notes on ousting a Supreme Court Justice or Chief Justice by Quo Warranto
(may ginagawa po ako pero isiningit ko lang po ito nang mabilis)
Under the Constitution of the Philippines, the qualifications to be a member of the Supreme Court are: 1.Must be a natural-born citizen; 2.Must be at least 40 years old; 3.Must have engaged in the practice of law for at least 15 years or must have been a judge for 15 years.
Here is the verbatim provision of the Constitution on the qualifications to be a member of the Supreme Court (in itals and blue font) : Art. VIII, Section 7. (1) No person shall be appointed Member of the Supreme Court or any lower collegiate court unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. A Member of the Supreme Court must be at least forty years of age, and must have been for fifteen years or more, a judge of a lower court or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines.
Quo warranto proceedings under the Rules of Court to oust a public official from office may lie when the public official “usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds a public office…”, as follows (in itals and blue font): Rule 66. Quo Warranto. Section 1.Action by Government against individuals. — An action for the usurpation of a public office, position or franchise may be commenced by a verified petition brought in the name of the Republic of the Philippines against: (a) A person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise; (b) A public officer who does or suffers an act which, by the provision of law, constitutes a ground for the forfeiture of his office; or (c) An association which acts as a corporation within the Philippines without being legally incorporated or without lawful authority so to act.
xxx Section 11. Limitations. — Nothing contained in this Rule shall be construed to authorize an action against a public officer or employee for his ouster from office unless the same be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of such ouster, or the right of the petitioner to hold such office or position, arose, nor to authorize an action for damages in accordance with the provisions of the next preceding section unless the same be commenced within one (1) year after the entry of the judgment establishing the petitioner’s right to the office in question.
In order words, in order that quo warranto proceedings can be instituted to oust a public official from the office he/she holds, it must be shown that said public official is unlawfully holding such public office.
A public official is considered to be holding a public post illegally if he/she was never legally qualified to hold such office. The legal qualification is found, obviously, in the law. In the case of members of the Supreme Court, the legal qualifications are found in the Constitution, Article VII Section 7 aforequoted.
In other words, a member of the Supreme Court is considered to be holding his/her post illegally if he/she did not meet the qualifications set forth in the Constitution when he/she was appointed to the post, namely the following qualifications as stated earlier: 1.Must be a natural-born citizen; 2.Must be at least 40 years old; 3.Must have engaged in the practice of law for at least 15 years or must have been a judge for 15 years.
In other words, the Chief Justice or any Justice of the Supreme Court may be “quo warrantoed” if: 1.Not a natural-born citizen; or 2.Younger than 40 years old when appointed; or 3.Does not have at least 15 years of law practice or 15 years of experience as a judge.
There is no allegation in the quo warranto petition filed by the Solicitor General that the Chief Justice is any of these. For that matter, there seems to be no showing anywhere that any member of the Supreme Court is any of these.
Hence, the petition is dismissable on its face.
If the quo warranto petition is entertained by the Supreme Court, then any Justice of the Supreme Court, any incumbent President of the Republic, any Senator, Congressman, governor, judge, mayor, etcetera, is “quo-warrantoable” or can be “quo warrantoed” at any time and for any ground outside of lack of the legal qualifications of such public official.
It will result in the apocalyptic spectacle of thousands of quo warranto petitions being filed against all government officials for grounds other than not having legal qualifications — a wreaking of havoc upon the Constitution and a figurative wrecking ball upon the Rules of Court.