“Justice in this country is dying; it is our duty to resuscitate it.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Different groups led by the Coalition for Justice (CFJ) gathered today, April 17, at Plaza Salamanca in Manila carrying banners calling for the junking of the quo warranto petition filed against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
They marched to the Supreme Court (SC) where chants, “Defend democracy!” and “Quo warranto, ibasura!” echoed at Padre Faura street.
The protest was held days after the SC has ended the oral arguments on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida. The SC is about to decide on the said petition after the Calida and Sereno have submitted their respective memorandums and other documents requested by the SC on April 20.
They also called for the resignation of the Justices who testified against Sereno when impeachment proceedings were held at the House of Representatives. These five Justices — Associate Justices Teresita De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam, refused to inhibit from the deliberations of the quo warranto petition.
The group said the SC “violated Sereno’s right to due process when it condoned the participation in the recent oral arguments of five patently biased Justices.”
“The SC en banc failed to enforce the mandatory inhibition on the biased 5 as required by the Code of Judicial Conduct. Should it grant the quo warranto petition, that decision shall be invalid,” the group asserted.
The five Justices who are calling for Sereno’s ouster were dubbed as “Biased 5.”
Similar action was also held in Baguio City where the SC held its summer session.
Pastor Caloy Dino, CFJ convenor said they may come from different groups with different political beliefs but they are united to fight for truth and justice for Sereneo. Reading the CFJ’s statement, Dino said the petition filed against Sereno is illegal and unconstitutional.
“Quo warranto is an action to remove non-impeachable officials. The SC has affirmed in a long line of cases that, under the Constitution, impeachment is the only mode for removing an impeachable officer,” he said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate also pointed out in his speech during the program that members of the SC as well as the President, the Vice President, members of the Constitutional Commission can only be removed from office through impeachment.
He called the petition as immoral and utterly erroneous.
“If there are evidences, they should bring it to the Senate. Quo warranto proceeding is a short circuit mechanism. This is the Duterte administration’s way of ousting the Chief Justice – through her colleagues from the SC and not through impeachment in the Senate,” he said adding that the proponents of the impeachment are lacking evidence against the Chief Justice.
He also said that the quo warranto, if granted, will have a great impact on the judiciary system. He said that this is a bad precedent as solicitor general can use this to threaten the SC Justices. “The Justices will be held hostage by the solicitor general saying that they can be removed from office not through the representatives of the people but through the quo warranto proceedings.”
Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) said that the “SC should not allow itself to be used as an instrument for such an insidious plot.”
“The quo warranto case circumvents the Constitution and undermines the system of checks and balances by making impeachable officials like Sereno vulnerable to harassment and intimidation by a powerful executive,” the group said in a statement.
For the youth, Raoul Manuel, secretary general of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) said they will not be silenced and will always join mobilizations fighting for the people’s right.
“We also wonder why this administration is so eager to remove the Chief Justice from the SC. A Chief Justice who stand up against those who are naghahari-harian (lording it over),” Manuel said.
If the petition will be granted, he said it will be clear to them that her ouster would give way to those who have ambitions to prolong their term.
“Ang pagka-tanggal ni Chief Justice ay puntos para kila Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Bong bong Marcos at Duterte at sa lahat pang kapit tuko sa kanilang pwesto. (The removal of the Chief Justice favors Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Bongbong Marcos, and Duterte who are clinging to their position.),” he said adding that the this government wanted to eliminate critics of the government’s policies such as Oplan Tokhang, the rehabilitation of the Marcoses among others.
Dino meanwhile said, “Never must we accept a decision besmirched with prejudice. This regime is shredding the fabric of our Republic, and we the people must arrest that destruction. Justice in this country is dying; it is our duty to resuscitate it.”