[EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: When the Supreme Court harms itself - and us

[EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: When the Supreme Court harms itself - and us

Kerry Wise
May 16, 2018

"Maria Lourdes Sereno is found disqualified from, and hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising, the office of the chief justice", said court spokesman Theodore Te, who read out the decision.

Prior to the high court's decision against Sereno, her qualification as Chief Justice was questioned after reports that she failed to file her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) during her stint as a professor at the University of the Philippines.

"It is not my personal interest or actual bias but the common interest of every incumbent Member of the Court to find the truth in whether or not respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno has the integrity to qualify her to hold the highest position in the Judiciary", De Castro said. She has warned that efforts by the Duterte administration to oust her are a threat to democracy, saying the petition that led to Friday's vote violates the constitution, which stipulates that top officials like her can only be removed by impeachment. "For years now, respondent and I have had a generally professional relationship and I have been exerting my best as a Supreme Court Associate Justice".

"Let's continue to defend the constitution and fight wrongdoing".

Although she did not mention President Rodrigo Duterte by name, she alluded to many issues under his leadership, including extrajudicial killings, which have been raised by rights activists and critics.

Duterte has sought the removal of Sereno and a top anti-graft prosecutor, Conchita Carpio-Morales, accusing them of allowing themselves to be used to discredit his administration.

"Needless to state the powers that the Constitution has granted to the Supreme Court can not be assumed by the said Director".

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She added that Sereno lacked basis in requesting her to inhibit from voting in the ouster plea.

She also has been speaking up for the respect of law and human rights, referring to Duterte's brutal crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of suspects dead.

The chief justice said that he was reconstituting the bench and then stood up, he said, after which the bench was reconstituted.

Once an independent judge like Sereno is ousted, "there will be no more balance of power".

Hontiveros' Akbayan party released a statement declaring that the nation was now a "heartbeat away" from the death of democracy.

Amid Leonen's warning, however, two senior Senate leaders assured there would be no "constitutional crisis" arising from the Supreme Court decision amid criticisms it has "weakened" the powers of Congress to remove an impeachable official.

In October past year, Duterte dared Sereno to open her bank account to public scrutiny, accusing her of corruption and of being used by his political opponents.