wnol.info May 23 2018

Sereno ouster shows SC bowing to 'aggressive' SolGen - Justice Leonen

May 23 2018, 01:18 | Irvin Gilbert

Protesters warn democracy at risk if Filipino justice ousted

Philippine Supreme Court justices oust chief justice

By a vote of 8-6, the court granted the government's petition to cancel Sereno's appointment on the grounds that she failed to disclose information pertaining to her financial earnings when she was appointed in 2010.

Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has described the Supreme Court's decision to unseat her as "unacceptable" and questioned the legality of the move.

She has warned that the 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.

Lawyers of ousted Philippine Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno say she will appeal an unprecedented ruling by fellow magistrates to remove her.

Sereno, the first woman to hold the top post in the judiciary, was supposed to stay in her post until her retirement at age 70 in 2030. "Despite this setback, let us not lose our confidence in our democracy".

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

Senator Leila de Lima, also a fellow critic of the government who was jailed a year ago on trumped-up drug charges, said Friday's ruling was the "greatest travesty" of justice committed by the high court since 1973, when its members, cowed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos, upheld his martial law.

Opposition politicians denounced Sereno's removal. "In impeachment matters the Supreme Court is not supreme, because the Senate is the one and only impeachment court", Pimentel said.

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". "President Duterte has now his partnership", De Lima said.

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In an interview with ABS-CBN news channel today (Friday, March 11), she said: "On so many levels this decision is unacceptable but I have to wait for and read the decision first".

"It primarily affects the entire nation as the Supreme Court literally sprawled the red carpet for dictatorial rule".

Asked whether there is still a possibility for Congress to continue with the impeachment trial of Sereno, he said, "The impeachment trial in the Senate depends on the action of the House (of Representatives) because Articles of Impeachment are still in the House". Renato Corona, a late chief justice, was impeached on similar corruption charges. "Lourdes Sereno", he said.

The chief justice was also informed by the authority of the ongoing verification of degrees of pilots and other airlines' staff. She presided over the proceedings Friday, but abstained from voting.

"The position of the Chief Justice is declared vacant", Te said, quoting the SC dispositive decision. One of the justices who opposed the petition, Marvic Leonen, called it "a legal abomination" that should have been dismissed outright. "We render those who present dissenting opinions unnecessarily vulnerable to powerful interests", Leonen said in a tweet.

"In these dark times, the people are called on to stand together and resist".

"I don't care about human rights, you better believe me", he said.

"It is really sad, I wished that this sad chapter of our history did not happen but maybe the Lord wanted the people to know the truth in the status of justice in our country".

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