Protesters warn democracy at risk if Filipino justice ousted

V. Roxas

Duterte had previously branded Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno an "enemy" for voting against some of his controversial government proposals, and had told lawmakers to oust her or "I'll do it for you".

The Solicitor General's petition to oust former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should have been junked outright, an associate justice said Friday.

"Wala na'y kaugmaon ang atong hudakatura (There is no future for our judiciary)", said Dr. Phoebe Zoe Maria Sanchez, a representative from Karapatan.

In the case of Sereno, this was when her appointment was made and/or the time she assumed office as Supreme Court Chief Justice, said Sombiro.

Asked by reporters about her position in the Supreme Court after her press conference on Friday, Sereno said, "I haven't read the decision".

She added that legal experts and constitutionalists believe that granting quo warranto against an impeachable official is unconstitutional.

Maria Lourdes Sereno is the first Supreme Court chief justice to be removed by her peers.

Sereno, the country's first female chief justice, is one of several high-profile critics who have found themselves targeted after speaking out against the president.

Nine of the justices also voted that Sereno violated the Constitution for failure to file her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Had she not been ousted, she would be serving as head of the Judiciary until 2030 when she reaches age 70, the mandatory retirement age for members of the Judiciary.

The Court's ruling, which was penned by Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam, preempted the impending impeachment trial of Sereno before the Senate.

Not contented from her ouster, the SC also issued a show cause order requiring her why she should not be penalized for supposedly violating Code of Professional Responsibility and Code of Judicial Conduct "for transgressing the subjudice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court". "If we don't wake up now, it will really be the death of democracy and sometimes history is cruel", Roman Catholic priest and protest leader Robert Reyes said outside the court.

Opposition leader Senator Francis Pangilinan says Congress should insist on its exclusive constitutional role to remove key officials like Sereno through impeachment.

Meanwhile, those who dissented were Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Mariano C. Del Castillo, Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Marvic F. Leonen, and Alfredo S. Caguioa. "This decision is immediately executory without need of further action from the Court".

MALACAÑANG, which has been publicly at odds with Sereno, only said the public should respect the SC decision.

"I do not know why some of them voted that way".

Sereno angered Duterte after she disagreed with his efforts to take action against judges authorities linked to illegal drugs in 2016, saying the Supreme Court should be the one to punish erring judges. Renato Corona was impeached in 2011 for betraying the public trust and committing culpable violation of the Constitution.

Sereno is the second chief justice in a row to be ousted in the Philippines.

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