Ousted CJ dares Rody to resign
It’s time for President Duterte to resign, ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said yesterday as she challenged him to keep his promise to step down if it would be proven that he was behind her ouster.
“Galing sa kanyang bibig ang pag-amin na siya ang pasimula at magpupursige sa pagtanggal sa
akin. P’wes, Ginoong Pangulo, mag-resign ka na (The admission came directly from him – that he started and pushed for my removal. Now then, Mr. President, resign now),” Sereno said at a forum organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Pasig City.
“Alam naman natin ang sasabihin ng Pangulo. Baka joke only. Hindi na panahon na magbiro tayo (We know what the President will say. Maybe, joke only. This is not the time for jokes),” she added.
Malacañang refused to comment on Sereno’s challenge for Duterte to resign.
“I do not want to comment on that. I think the President does not want to comment on that also,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told radio DZMM yesterday. “Let us just let her be and allow her to live a quiet life as a private citizen.”
Sereno recalled the statement made by Duterte last month when he declared her as his enemy and vowed to support efforts to have her removed from the Supreme Court.
“Calida will not file a major case before the Supreme Court until he has your approval. You started this mess,” she said in Filipino, referring to Solicitor General Jose Calida who filed the quo warranto petition that resulted in her removal.
“You said you will tell the Congress to remove me. You said you will help Calida. What does that mean?” she added.
Sereno said Duterte’s problem with her apparently started when she called on the President to be careful in releasing names of judges allegedly involved in illegal drugs.
“He did not respect that. He was angry. Are we going to be ruled by the anger of one person? If he does not like you, you will be removed. If you oppose him, criticize him, he will attack you,” she noted.
Previously cautious in making her opinions public due to her position at the SC, the former chief justice was in fighting form yesterday as she criticized the policies of the Duterte administration.
She called out Duterte’s boasting about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assurance to protect him from ouster moves. She said his dealings with China could be grounds for his impeachment.
She also challenged the administration to clearly state its economic policy or where it wants to lead the country.
“We are compromised. There is a lack of moral conviction among those who are in the high places of government,” Sereno said.
The former chief magistrate also slammed Duterte’s pronouncement that he prefers to have a male for the next chief justice.
“He should not bring his personal problems in the office because there is a Constitution stating that he has to respect the equality in rights and status of both women and men,” she said.
In her speech, Sereno said there is no need for an official declaration of martial law as the reality on the ground clearly shows dictatorship is taking root in the country.
“If he does not like dissent, let’s give him dissent. If he does not like to hear the voice of the people, let us make him hear the voice of the people,” she said.
“Those whom people call strongmen, bully – the only way to fight a bully is to resist,” she added.
At the Ateneo where protest actions against her ouster were held, Sereno denounced the “evils” of the administration and called on the nation to stamp them out.
“We denounce treachery to the nation, cowardice in the face of foreign onslaught and invasion, we denounce corruption, hypocrisy, doublespeak, the vulgarity and harassment, whether it is for the jeepney drivers told na mamatay kayo sa gutom (you die of hunger), women who are attacked for being women, threat of rape… we denounce them. We move forward as a country because we cannot tolerate this evil anymore,” she said.
The former chief justice said Filipinos are now living in fear, just like during the martial law era.
“Maaring wala tayong mga military na nakapwesto sa ating kanto at walang military trucks gumagala sa kalsada, ngunit sino ang gumagala sa kalsada ngayon, mga mamamatay tao na nakamotorsiklo. Dati takot na tayo ay madampot, na ngayon ay takot na baka sila ay mamatay (There may be no more soldiers at every corner, no more military trucks in the streets, but who are now roaming around? Killers on motorbikes. Before, we feared being arrested but now people fear getting killed),” she said.
She also condemned the administration’s subservience to China, specifically its lame stand on the Asian power’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea and its seizure of land features within Philippine territory.
Sereno said what the administration has clearly demonstrated is its readiness to disregard the rule of law to punish or silence its critics.
“We shall fight. We shall continue praying for an end to evils prevailing in our society. Together, let’s declare enough is enough, we can no longer tolerate evil,” she said in Filipino.
Forum panelist former Bayan Muna congressman Neri Colmenares said the judiciary and the legislature could not be trusted anymore to protect the people from authoritarianism.
“We think that protesting in the streets is now the most important arena. It’s difficult to win in the courts. It’s difficult in Congress, because of the super majority. The arena where people have a substantial voice is the streets – it’s where we can express our opposition to the authoritarianism of President Duterte,” Colmenares told The STAR.
Also at the Ateneo forum, former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. said the eight Supreme Court justices who voted to oust Sereno have committed an impeachable offense.
In a speech, Davide said the decision to grant the quo warranto petition is a culpable violation of the Constitution, one of the grounds for impeachment of top officials in the country.
“The decision violated the constitutional mandate that the chief justice and the associate justices can be removed only by impeachment,” he said.
“The violation is culpable because they know that impeachment is the only process authorized by the Constitution to remove a chief justice. Quo warranto is not,” he added.
Davide said the process of quo warranto, which questions the eligibility of an official to hold a government position, is simply a remedy provided in the rules of court crafted by the Supreme Court. “Neither an ordinary law nor the rules of court can provide an additional ground or process to remove the chief justice as well as all other impeachable officials enumerated in the Constitution,” said Davide.
The Constitution provides that the president, vice president, SC justices and heads of the independent constitutional commissions may only be removed through impeachment.
Davide said the recent decision could result in a deluge of quo warranto petitions, effectively destroying the judiciary.
“May 11 was the saddest day of the Philippine judiciary, especially at the Supreme Court and ultimately, the entire nation and all Filipinos,” he said, referring to the day when the justices voted to oust Sereno.
“The chief justice was denied due process. The eight destroyed the Court,” he added.
Davide said six of the eight who voted in favor of ousting Sereno should have inhibited as they had already shown bias by taking part in the committee hearings at the House of Representatives.