Press Release
May 4, 2018

Statement of Senators De Lima and Trillanes in the Quo Warranto Case Filed by the OSG Against the Chief Justice

We, as Senators of the Republic of the Philippines, and as citizens and taxpayers, filed an Opposition-in-Intervention in the Quo Warranto Petition filed by the OSG to oust the Chief Justice, an impeachable officer of the Republic. We did so in order to remind the members of the Supreme Court that they are treading on dangerous grounds when they move to even entertain such a Petition. Today, we are vehemently protesting any attempt to hastily resolve the Petition before the resumption of the session of Congress and before the latter has had the opportunity to transmit the articles of impeachment and, thereafter, conduct further action in accordance with the Constitution, including, if deemed warranted, the conduct of an impeachment trial.

President Jose P. Laurel, in one of the Decisions he penned early in his tenure as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1936, laid down immortal words, the wisdom of which has not only endured, but has become part of the basic DNA of our government - that is, that "the separation of powers is a fundamental principle in our system of government." "It obtains," he said, "not through express provision but by actual division in our Constitution...," with each department of government having "exclusive cognizance of matters within its jurisdiction, and is supreme within its own sphere." As far as the Legislature, or Congress, is concerned, he expressly stated that it "controls the judiciary to an extent" and "exercises the judicial power of trying impeachments."

It is a landmark decision, and passages from it are routinely memorized by law students. Because if one is to understand one fundamental thing about the Constitutional structure of our government, that is it in a nut shell. It is sacred, and to forget it is to forget the faces of our forefathers; and to betray it is to betray one of the very basic components that holds up this social contract between the State and its people.

Once in a while, a branch of government needs reminding: Sagrado po ang kasunduang ito sa pagitan ng pamahalaan at ng taumbayan, at sa pagitan ng bawat sangay ng pamahalaan. Kung babastusin at lalabagin ito ng kahit na anong sangay ng pamahalaan, ipinagkanulo na rin nila ang Taumbayan. Dahil ang paglabag sa prinsipyo ng separation of powers ay kanser na kakalat at papatay sa kabuuan ng Sambayanang Pilipino.

Usually, it is the judiciary that does the reminding. In the exercise of the power of judicial review, it tells the executive or the legislature or any other agency in the bureaucracy if it has overstepped its powers. "Grave abuse of discretion" ika nga.

Ngunit paano kung ang Kataastaasang Hukuman mismo ang kailangang paalalahanan?

Kapag nilabag ng Judiciary ang eksklusibong kapangyarihan ng Kongreso na magtanggal sa pwesto ng mga impeachable officers, lalampas na po kayo sa boundary ng kapangyarihan ninyo, at nag-tre-trespass na po kayo sa teritoryo ng Lehislatura.

Make no mistake, this is no ordinary "boundary issues". To take cognizance of the Quo Warranto Petition and, worse, to expedite action on it in order to prevent and pre-empt Congress from exercising its powers of impeachment is one of the worst, if not the worst, act of betrayal that a Supreme Court can commit because it is tantamount to the Supreme Court signing its name on the death warrant of our democracy.

It is a betrayal of the Filipino people who ordained and promulgated the Constitution.

It is a betrayal of the honor and life's work of former members of the Supreme Court, such as Justice Cecillia Muñoz-Palma, who envisioned a Supreme Court that will serve as "the true and faithful "guardian of the Constitution, protector of people's rights and freedoms, and repository of the nation's guarantees against tyranny, despotism, and dictatorship."

It is a betrayal of the Supreme Court's duty to preserve and protect the powers exclusively vested in other branches of government.

It is a betrayal of the integrity of the Supreme Court itself.

We refuse to watch silently while the Office of the Solicitor General bids the Supreme Court to sound the death knell of our democracy.

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