Rights group calls for judicial independence amid Sereno ouster

13 May, 2018, 01:35 | Author: Angel Logan
  • Philippine Supreme Court justices oust chief justice

The Philippine Supreme Court ousted its chief justice, a critic of the country's authoritarian president, in an unprecedented vote Friday by fellow judges that she and hundreds of protesters called unconstitutional and a threat to democracy. Her predecessor, Renato Corona, was impeached by the House in 2011 and became the first chief justice to be convicted in a 2012 Senate trial for failing to accurately disclose his bank deposits and properties.

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

Those who concurred with Tijam's ponencia were Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas P. Bersamin, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, Andres B. Reyes Jr. and Alexander G. Gesmundo, SC Spokesman Theodore Te said in a news conference. The others were Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa. Crowds of supporters and opponents of Sereno had gathered outside the building before the ruling. "I was removed from my position, but the six votes that I should stay only means that what we've been fighting for is correct".

Sereno, who went on an indefinite leave in March had returned to work last Wednesday "after completing her preparation for her legal defenses against the baseless impeachment complaint filed against her", said one of her spokespersons.

"Even if the Chief Justice has failed our expectations, quo warranto, as a process to oust an impeachable officer and a sitting member of the Supreme Court is a legal abomination", Marvic Leonen said in his dissenting opinion.

The result of the voting was 9-5, after Velasco voted with the majority.

"Respondent Maria Lourdes PA Sereno is hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office as chief justice", read a portion of the tribunal's decision.

"The people should express to the court that the decision was wrong and unacceptable".

"This decision is immediately executory without need of further action from the court", Te added.

He emphasized that in impeachment, the SC can not be supreme "because the Senate is the one and only impeachment court" and the only way to remove the Chief Justice is for the House to impeach her and for the Senate to convict.

Sereno has been accused of failing to pay about two million pesos (R491,926) in taxes as well as falsifying and tampering with court resolutions.

"The ouster of our chief justice - this foundation of democracy, this shield against abuse of power in government - has crumbled", it said in a statement.

'This day is not the end, this is just the beginning, ' she said, without specifying her next move.

"We can not remain silent, because silence is like condoning the abuse", she said.

"The Supreme Court has fallen, and fallen hard, in the eyes of the public", she said.

Senate President Koko Pimentel on Friday said the Supreme Court is "not exempted" from upholding the rule of law.

Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani, one of framers of the 1987 Constitution, said Sereno's ouster through the quo warranto petition was a clear violation of the charter.

Malacanang Palace through Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, also welcomed the decision, calling it an "assertion of the supremacy of the fundamental law of the land".

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