MANILA, Philippines – There was tension on the stage of the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) on Thursday, March 8, between no less than the country’s top women justices.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had not even gone back to her seat yet after delivering her speech, when Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro walked past her towards the podium to speak her mind.
“I am very sorry that the Chief Justice has taken this opportunity to discuss a matter which is sub judice. We have given her all the courtesy and I sincerely hope that she should have not dealt with the matter that is pending in the Court,” De Castro said, gathering some applause from the audience.
Sereno could only look at her nemesis.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, also on the stage, kept a straight face. Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe let out what looked like a nervous smile.
Sereno, Carpio, De Castro, Bernabe, and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Noel Tijam, Samuel Martires, and Alexander Gesmundo attended the PWJA’s 30th anniversary Thursday morning.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Batangas 6th District Representative Vilma Santos shared the stage with the justices.
SC Associate Justice and PWJA President Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro gives opening remarks pic.twitter.com/sc4Uopfjat— Supreme Court PIO (@SCPh_PIO) March 8, 2018
Sereno was tasked to deliver the “inspirational message” of the program.
In her speech, Sereno reiterated that she has to have her day at the Senate impeachment court. The SC en banc is deliberating on a quo warranto petition that seeks to have her removed by the SC itself, skirting the impeachment process. (READ: Why SC justices forced Sereno to go on leave)
“I must fight to have my day at the Senate impeachment court. This fight is a fight for judicial independence,” Sereno said.
She added: “Indeed, I look at any form to try me other than the constitutionally exclusive form of impeachment as an admission by the complainant and my other detractors that after the hearings, they have failed to come up with any evidence with which I can be convicted at the Senate.”
“Sila ang nagsimula, bakit ayaw nilang tapusin (They started it, why don’t they want to finish it)?” Sereno asked.
Sereno also blasted the House committee on justice’s hearings, which culminated Thursday as they voted to endorse the impeachment to the House plenary.
“The House committee on justice has denied me my right to confront or cross-examine the witnesses and resource persons against me. [This] is nothing but blatantly unfair,” Sereno said. – Rappler.com