Sereno urges students to fight for ‘independent judiciary’

Marchel P. Espina
Sereno urges students to fight for ‘independent judiciary’
'Fight for freedom – want it, demand it, claim it,' Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno tells students in a forum in Bacolod City

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno remained unfazed amid calls for her resignation, as she rallied students in this city to fight for an “independent judiciary” in a forum on Tuesday, March 13.

Addressing some 1,200 students at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos’ “The Road to Judicial Reform: Achieving Justice Through the Rule of Law” forum, Sereno stressed the importance of  “rule of law” for a “stable future.”

“If we have rule of law, we will have less reason to be angry with what is happening in the society,” she said. 

The Chief Justice told the students that their future will be at risk if there’s no rule of law. 

“Don’t believe that shortcuts can save our nation; it can’t. It will only bring us downward in the never-ending spiral,” she said. “If we have rule of law, regardless of who’s the politically strong person at the moment,” you won’t be persecuted for your beliefs,” she added.

“Our system of justice can work if we will fight for it,” Sereno said.

She also told the students that if they see an institution that can protect them, like the judiciary, being destroyed, they have to use their influence as netizens or people on the street and say, “We want an independent judiciary.”

“Our future lies in an independent judiciary,” she said, drawing cheers from the students. “Fight for freedom – want it, demand it, claim it.”

She shared that she she came from a poor background, and that aside from living in poverty, she had to face day-to-day injustices.

Sereno also said her mother inculcated in them 3 things: “Don’t lie, don’t cheat, and [don’t] take advantage of others.” This is why she strongly fights for the rule of law and justice, she said.

Negros Occidental judges: Remain neutral

Judges in Negros Occidental are not joining the calls for the resignation of Sereno as they reminded their colleagues to stay neutral.

In a statement, the officers and members of Negros Occidental Regional Trial Court Association (NORTCJA) said they are saddened by the recent pronouncements from some court personnel, employees’ associations, and unions calling for the resignation of the Chief Justice. 

“As an organization, we value consensus-building and this matter has been discussed among our members. The consensus is clear: we are and should be neutral,” the group said.

They said they do not wish to be part of the issues besetting the Supreme Court and its personnel as their priority is to keep the courts open and to serve the people. 

“We are not politicians. We do not have the luxury of publicly expressing our sentiments unless prompted by the situation. This is one of those times that our voices need to be heard,” the group stressed.

“We call for sobriety and prudence. We ask our fellow judges to remember our oath to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law; to be impartial and reserve judgment until all evidence has been presented; to be non-partisan and let due process take its course. We stand for an independent judiciary,” it added.

In her speech here, Sereno reiterated that she will not resign. She said the call for her resignation is not founded on reason but only on convenience.

“It’s not me who started this…I’m only asking time for my side to be heard. Is that too much? Isn’t that the basic right of a citizen? Give me my day in the Senate impeachment court….Let’s see who has the truth,” she said.

Sereno has been keynoting public events, and entertaining interviews to air her side on the impeachment complaint against her, as well as calls for her resignation.

The House committee on justice is preparing the Articles of Impeachment against Sereno, which may be finished by early next week, and will then be put to a vote before the House plenary. At least one-third of House members voting for the Articles of Impeachment will be needed for it to be endorsed to the Senate. 

The Senate is in “preparation mode” for Sereno’s impeachment trial. The impeachment court might convene in May but the earliest time for the trial itself will lkely be end of July, after the State of the Nation Address, Senate leaders had

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