The Executive maneuvered to remove the Chief Justice and consolidate its control over all the branches.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA— Few positive feedback greeted the expected decision of the Supreme Court justices today to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Instead, even SC spokesperson Theodore Te, posted in his social media account his personal opinion in the matter: “I dissent.”
The SC justices issued their decision before lunch on Friday, May 11. Voting 8-6, the SC en banc favored Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition, voiding the appointment as Chief Justice of Loudes Sereno. By afternoon the same day, various groups have condemned what happened. A Black Friday Protest was immediately set across various schools around the country.
The workers’ group Pamantik-KMU blasted the eight justices as puppets in having surrendered the independence of the judiciary.
Before the SC decision, Sereno’s battle has mostly been described as bigger than a young chief justice’s fight to keep her post. Sereno herself has also apparently realized and embraced it mid-fight. She has been going on speaking tours around schools and universities and forging ties with mass organizations, telling them that the courts should be serving the people.
The decision is “another nail in the coffin of democracy,” a sign of another serious regression in the system of checks and balances in the country, said the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in a statement. It is not just Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno who lost her position. According to Bayan, the Supreme Court has exposed itself as “a willing tool” in undermining judicial independence.
Prior to the Supreme Court hearing and issuance of the decision on the quo warranto case to remove Sereno, President Duterte expressly asked his allies to remove her.
“What was really on trial here were all three branches of government,” Bayan said. In this trial, they added, it is the country’s claims to being a democracy that has sustained the biggest loss.
To oust Sereno, the government’s checks and balances were manipulated this way, as Bayan summarized: “The Executive maneuvered to remove the Chief Justice and consolidate its control over all the branches. The Legislative embarked on a fishing expedition via impeachment hearings to destroy the reputation of the Chief Justice. The Supreme Court exposed itself as a willing tool in undermining judicial independence because they had an ax to grind against the Chief Justice.”
SC justices blasted for legally blessing Duterte’s dictatorial bent
Given the Supreme Court justices’ behavior, the Kabataan Partylist condemned its role “in the official installation of a strong, one-man rule.”
“We hold the justices of the Supreme Court, and all of Duterte’s cohorts in a rotten and disintegrating political gamefield, liable for sanctioning another Marcosian era,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago.
Finding herself in similar plight with the poor and oppressed, CJ Sereno draws the line where the court judges and the president are expected to stay. (2018 Araw ng Kagitingan Photo by Mon Ramirez)
The Supreme Court’s role is to uphold the constitution, rule of law, interpret it based on the spirit of the law to serve the interests of the people and country, the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said in another statement.
Instead, it said, the judiciary has morphed into a legal tool to coerce all forms of opposition and dissent.
“What the Duterte Administration is doing is clearly out of bounds of what the Constitution provides,” Gabriela Women Party Rep. Arlene Brosas also said. Even before the Supreme Court justices handed its expected decision against Sereno, the women’s group has urged Sereno to stand her ground.
“It is clearly enshrined in the 1987 Constitution under Article XI Section 2 that the Chief Justice may only be removed from office only through impeachment,” Rep. Brosas explained.
Even lawyers feel ashamed of what the SC justices decided on Chief Justice Sereno.
In a statement, the National Union on People’s Lawyer said, “As members of the bar, we are duty bound, under oath, to be dispensers of justice and to protect our freedom and dignity as a nation and as a people.” But instead of providing what they call as “principled redemption,” the majority of “the Gods in Faura” (referring to the street address of the SC) generously gave their peers, the entire legal profession and the public at large, reason to deny respect and dismiss any belief in the system, the NUPL said.
All these groups urged their members and supporters to protest. The NUPL called on all members of the bench and the bar nationwide to step-up the protests “against the breakdown of the so-called rule of law and the erosion of judicial independence in all legitimate forms and fora possible.”
The CPA and various other groups called on the Filipino people to intensify the struggle for democratic rights, “now that a tyrannical regime has virtually consolidated the executive, legislative and judiciary into the hands of one powerful president.”
Windel Bolinget, chairperson of CPA, urged the people to exercise their power as the supreme law and hold court on the streets to defend their rights against State terrorism and human rights violations.