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SC has fallen, lawyers’ group says after Sereno’s ouster

Human rights lawyers said Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s ouster means the Supreme Court (SC) has surrendered its independence to political pressures.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) called the SC decision granting the Quo Warranto petition against Sereno as “deplorable, contemptuous and a contortion of the Constitution.”

Eight SC associate justices voted to grant the Quo Warranto petition Friday morning, saying Sereno became chief magistrate on the basis on an invalid appointment.

Associate Justices Teresita De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr and Alexander Gesmundo voted in the affirmative.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa voted against.

The NUPL however said the decision was dishonorable and is a red carpet for dictatorial rule by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Earlier, the NUPL said the Quo Warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General set “a very dangerous and ruinous precedent that can even be used against any impeachable officer, including other justices of the Supreme Court who go against the wishes of and in the crosshairs of the administration or interest groups.”

In its reaction to the decision Friday, the lawyers’ group said granting the Quo Warranto petition does not affect the Chief Justice alone.

“It primarily affects the entire nation as the Supreme Court literally sprawled the red carpet for dictatorial rule,” the NUPL in a statement said.

The NUPL called on judges and lawyers nationwide to step-up protests against “the breakdown of the so-called rule of law and the erosion of judicial independence.”

The group said it is planning and calling for nationwide simultaneous forms of protest against the SC decision to oust CJ Sereno on Tuesday, May 15.

Possible actions include wearing of black pins or armbands, court hearing holiday, picket at the SC and other courts, and legal fora and press conferences, the group said.

“Today is yet again not another good day to be a lawyer. But we will fight and hold fast. The people we serve deserve no less,” the NUPL said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists march for justice at the start of quo warranto hearings vs chief justice

The Coalition for Justice and Movement Against Tyranny, among other groups, led a March for Justice in Baguio City last April 10 at the start of the Supreme Court’s deliberations on the quo warranto petition against its Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

 

I will not resign — Sereno

By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said she will not resign as she asked the House committee on justice to already render judgement on her impeachment case and submit it to the Senate to allow her to present her side.

“I have been persistently saying to those who have asked me to resign: No I will not,” Sereno said.

“I will give an account of my actions as Chief Justice to the people. I don’t owe anyone the duty to resign. I owe the people the duty to tell my story,” Sereno added.

Sereno, who is facing impeachment charges, spoke before judges, lawyers and law students among others on judicial reforms at the University of Baguio on March 2.

Sereno called on everyone to respect the impeachment proceedings as she called on the House committee on justice to quickly resolve her impeachment case instead of prolonging the agony and “calling for extra-constitutional help to facilitate the ouster of the chief justice”.

“Either the House has found probable cause or not, and if it has, the House must submit it already to the senate,” she said.

“I ask only one thing from the political leaders, give me my day in the Senate impeachment, or admit there is no probable cause,” she added.

Sereno said she is standing her ground to keep the judiciary independent from outside pressures by introducing reforms. She said that reforms will not only equip courts to be able to face today’s challenges and at the same strengthen the judicial system to be able to assert its space among democratic institutions.

“Judicial independence can only be realized when we allow our courts to exercise its constitutional mandate free of intimidation,” Sereno pointed out during a forum on judicial reforms at the University of Baguio.

“I remain steadfast in fighting for judicial independence. I have faith that in the end what some unpatriotic men and women have intended for evil in the form of my impeachment, God will turn into good,” she continued.

Sereno is hopeful that after the impeachment trial, the Supreme Court will still be renewed and be united to serve the people and protect their constitutional rights.

In an emailed statement, Atty. Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said that the Constitution recognizes impeachment as the only way to remove a chief justice from office. He urged that the Constitutional processes defined for an impeachment trial be followed.

“Any artifice or device intended to solely target the Chief Justice and short-circuit the process would be repugnant to the Constitution, and must be slain on sight if our democratic processes are to be observed,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo said that security of tenure is the foundation of judicial independence which shields judges from the political elements that “may have played a role in their appointment on the bench”.

“We breathe life into this prized democratic value by according the Chief Justice due process of law in accordance with the rules governing the difficult process of impeachment,” he said.

“This will also afford our people the opportunity to decide for themselves whether the causes against her are contrived or artificial, or are impressed with merit as to necessitate the extreme measure of removal from office,” he added. # nordis.net