Supreme Court employees, judges group hail decision to oust Sereno

Lian Buan
Supreme Court employees, judges group hail decision to oust Sereno

LeAnne Jazul

'The interpretation and application of the Constitution, laws and rules exclusively belong to the Supreme Court,' say the employees in a statement read in the presence of justices

MANILA, Philippines – The “Red Monday” protests which started at the heat of the quo warranto petition against former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno continued even after she was ousted, as employees hailed the ouster vote in a statement read at the Supreme Court (SC) flag ceremony on Monday, May 21.

“Nagsalita na po ang Korte Suprema. Tanggapin po natin ito ng may buong paggalang at respeto, at sa pamamagitan ng pagsunod sa itinatadhana nito. Tumalima po tayo sa Rule of Law,” said the statement read aloud by Erwin Coson, president of the SC Employees Association (SCEA).

(The Supreme Court has spoken. Let us all accept it with utmost obedience and respect, and by following what it says. Let us stand by the Rule of Law.)

The statement added: “Hayaang ang kasaysayan ang humusga sa magiging pangkalahatan at kahuli-hulihang pagpasya nito. Mabuhay ang 14 na mahistrado ng Korte Suprema! Mabuhay ang nag-iisang Korte Suprema!”

(Let history the judge the decision of the Court. Hail the 14 justices of the Supreme Court, hail the one and only Supreme Court.)

Ocson read the statement in the presence of 6 sitting SC justices: Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Mariano del Castillo, Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam. Of the 6 present during the flag ceremony, 3 – De Castro, Martires and Tijam – concurred, while 3 – Carpio, Velasco and Del Castillo – dissented.

The statement was signed by Attorney Rene Enciso, president of the Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees; Judge Felix Reyes, president of the Philippine Judges Association; and Attorney Maria Fe Maloloy-On, president of the Philippine Association of Court Employees.

The employees and judges associations called for sobriety as the nation discusses Sereno’s ouster, which has been slammed by legal experts as being unconstitutional. Fourteen senators also signed a resolution urging the SC to review its decision.

“The interpretation and application of the Constitution, laws and rules exclusively belong to the Supreme Court. Not to the Executive Department. Not to Congress. Not to media. Not to the practicing lawyers and law students. Not to the clergy. Not even to the people,” the statement said. (READ: EXPLAINER: How SC majority tried to close all doors for ousted Sereno)

The employees said they will support the SC and all of the 14 remaining sitting justices in this crossroad in the judiciary.

“Amin pong lalabanan ang lahat ng pagtatangka ninoman upang ito ay hatiin, pahinain o buwagin (We will fight all attempts to divide, weaken or abolish the Court) ,” the statement said.

Unique predicament

Once again, the protests demonstrated the unique predicament of Sereno – a chief justice who appears not to have the full support and confidence of the institution she led for 5 years.

Alhough they called the decision a “legal abomination” or “suicide without honor,” the dissenting justices also noted criticisms of Sereno, such as failure to show leadership and doubts on truthfulness of her statements.

Carpio even said Sereno failed to file her Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth, and committed an impeachable offense while doing so.

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ The Source on Monday, Sereno said she can explain to the people the decisions she made which were contested by justices and employees, but that she never got the chance to.

“Everybody will be able to pitch in and say why did Sereno commit this and that, and I will be able to say I did this because this is my belief, I denied this request because it would have cost money that should not have been spent. So those would have been the real story, but I never had the chance,” Sereno said, referring to a Senate impeachment trial.

Sereno added: “[It was] one-sided, up to now, wala akong naging forum para ikuwento in a dignified manner the baseless charges hurled against me. (I never had a forum to explain in a dignified manner the baseless charges hurled against me.)”

Sereno refused to attend the House of Representatives impeachment hearings, and instead sent her lawyers. The House justice committee did not allow the lawyers to participate, saying that it is either Sereno or none at all.

Sereno was ousted for her missing Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs), which the SC said was proof of non-filing and non-submission, both indications of lack, if not absence of, integrity.

If not for her SALN problem, would she have suffered the same fate? Sereno said: “Palagay ko maghahanap pa rin. (I think they would still look for another charge).” –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.