MANILA, Philippines – A global group of jurists condemned the tirades of President Rodrigo Duterte against Chief Justice on-leave Maria Lourdes Sereno, calling them an “attack on the rule of law.”
In a statement before the weekend, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said Duterte’s remarks “constituted an assault not just on the Chief Justice, but on the independence of the judiciary in the country.”
The President had asked Congress to fast-track the impeachment complaint filed against Sereno. Referring to the Chief Justice, Duterte said in a press conference on Monday, April 9, “I am putting you on notice that I am your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court.”
The embattled Sereno – who is also facing a quo warranto petition in the SC seeking to remove her from office – received fresh criticism from the President on Friday, April 13, as he called her “stupid” and hurled his favored expletive at her.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for President Duterte to make such a statement not only because it constitutes direct intimidation of the Chief Justice, but the chilling effect it may have on other independent judges who carry out their professional duties,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s senior international legal adviser.
“By expressing his personal feelings against the Chief Justice and by directing the House of Representatives to accelerate the impeachment proceedings, the President is actively influencing and interfering with the functions of other co-equal branches of government,” Gil added.
Citing provisions in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, the ICJ called on the President to “respect judicial independence and not to exert political pressure on any government official or agency to undermine” the court’s independence.
The group also urged Duterte to “retract his comments and to refrain in the future from making any statements attacking individual judges or in any way interfering with the independence of the judiciary.” – Michael Bueza/Rappler.com