MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Congress to speed up the impeachment of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, peeved at her latest remarks about him.
"I am putting you on notice that I am your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court. I will request Congress to do it, the impeachment right away.... Kindly fast-track the impeachment," he said on Monday, April 9.
Calling Sereno "bad for the Philippines," he said Congress should act swiftly or else he would.
"Do it now. Huwag 'nyo na dramahin (Don't add drama) or else I will do it for you," he said.
The President insisted he wants the Chief Justice out for the good of the country.
"Now I will really interfere. I am asking Congress, what's taking you too long? Do not create any crisis in this country. I will not hesitate to do what is to the best interest of my country. If it calls for your forced removal, I will do it," he said.
But even without Duterte's encouragement, the impeachment complaint against Sereno has been moving at the House of Representatives.
The House committee on justice approved the articles of impeachment against Sereno before Congress took a break.
The House plenary is expected to vote on the committee report recommending Sereno's impeachment when Congress resumes mid-May. If at least one-third of the House votes to accept the committee report, Sereno will be deemed impeached. Duterte's allies dominate the House.
The complaint will then be forwarded to the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, which has the power to convict or acquit impeachable officials.
'Count me in'
Duterte's remarks come after Sereno, in a speech earlier that day, accused him of being behind moves to oust her. She asked him to explain the "unconstitutional" quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, seeking her removal.
Duterte and Malacañang have insisted he had no hand in the impeachment hearings and the quo warranto petition.
Because of Sereno's remarks, the President said he would "help any investigator" himself and would encourage Calida to pursue the petition.
"If you are insisting, count me in. Then I will egg Calida [on] to do his best. I told you already that I didn't interfere," said Duterte.
He even joked that Sereno could end up in jail, and that he would occupy the cell between her and Senator Leila de Lima.
"Samahan ko sila, diyan ako sa gitna. De Lima dito, pati siya. Kung wala na talagang iba," he said. (I'll go with them, I'll be in the middle. De Lima here, also her [Sereno]. If there's no choice.)
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.