Groups decry Sereno ouster as 'clear violation of the Constitution'
MANILA, Philippines – Several groups decried the ouster of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition, saying the move is a "clear violation of the Constitution."
In an interview with Radio Veritas on Friday, May 11, Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said granting the quo warranto petition violates the Constitution. Teodoro was part of the 1987 Constitutional Commission.
"Ako member ako ng Constitutional Commission, klarong-klaro na isa lang ang puwedeng pamamaraan para i-oust ang Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and that is by impeachment. Pati ang president gayundin. Kaya ito ay clear violation of the Supreme Court," Bacani said.
(I was part of the Constitutional Commission. It is very clear that the only way to oust the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is by impeachment. It is the same for the president. That's why this is a clear violation of the Supreme Court.)
Supreme Court justices ousted Sereno with a vote of 8-6 on Friday on the basis of an invalid appointment.
Nine of the justices said the recently removed Chief Justice violated the requirements on the State of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). The same number of justices ruled that quo warranto was the proper remedy in the ouster of Sereno.
In a statement, Akbayan Partylist pointed out that the removal signals the "death of democracy."
"The Supreme Court's decision to grant the quo warranto petition against the Chief Justice destroyed the constitutional process of impeachment and system of checks and balances. The constitutional process of impeachment is now dead," Akbayan spokesperson Gio Tingson said.
"And with the ouster of our Chief Justice, this foundation of democracy— this shield against abuse of power in government— has crumbled. After having a lapdog Congress and a seriously wounded Senate, we now have a puppet Supreme Court," Tingson added.
Meanwhile, Tindig Pilipinas said the SC "failed to uphold the Constitution" who were "supposed to be exemplars of wisdom."
"Because of their collective failure to muster their intramurals, because of their inability to see how pretty their squabbles are in comparison to their clear duty to uphold the Constitution, they have reversed the work of generations present and past in building trust in the institutions that are vital to the functioning or democracy," Tindig Pilipinas said in a statement.
Other groups saw the removal of Sereno as a manifestation of an impending dictatorship under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Salungat sa demokrasya at interes ng mga batayang sektor ang nangyaring panggigipit kay CJ Sereno. Bahagi ito ng serye ng atake ni Pangulong Duterte sa mga kababaihang pinuno na kritikal sa mapanupil niyang pamamalakad. Sa madaling salita, isang higanteng hakbang tungo sa diktadura," Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa said in a statement.
(Contrary to democracy and the interest of the sector was what happened in the harassment of CJ Sereno. It is part of the series of attacks by President Duterte against women leaders who are critical of his administration. In other words, it is a giant step towards dictatorship.)
Leftist groups said the removal of Sereno degraded the juidiciary and now allows the President to give in to favors "without any roadblock."
"Through the efforts of his key allies in the judiciary – not unlike his allies in the executive and in the legislative – an entire institution has degraded itself to do the president’s bidding, in this case, to get rid of opposition," said Sanlakas secretary-general Aaron Pedrosa.
"With the removal of CJ Sereno, Duterte is now free to appoint a new Chief Justice and tilt the balance of the high court further towards [him], virtually ensuring that all legal challenges to his policies and declarations will be settled in his favor," Anakbayan secretary-general Einstein Recedes said.
'Separation of power an illusion'
A youth group pointed out that the removal showed the "rottenness" of the Philippine political system and that the government's branches are "not co-equal" in nature.
"The historic vote has also validated our views that the present political system is not only seriously flawed but is rotten to its very core. The illusion of an independent judiciary has been broken," Samahan Ng Progresibong Kabataan said in a statement.
"The illusion that the branches of government are co-equal and independent of political and external influence, especially from Malacanang, has been busted," the youth group added.
The ouster of a Chief Justice is deemed as a historic move – in a petition widely slammed for violating Sereno's constitutional right to an impeachment process. (READ: After SC ousts her, what can Sereno do now?)
Disbarment is another possibility that hounds that recently-ousted chief justice, with the SC en banc issuing a show cause order on why she should not be sanctioned for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and Code of Judicial Conduct.
Back in March, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a petition for a quo warranto to declare the appointment of Sereno as unlawful.– Rappler.com