Human Rights Watch: Sereno ouster 'frontal assault' on democracy

MANILA, Philippines – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced the ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, calling it an assault on human rights and democracy.  (READ: Supreme Court ousts Chief Justice Sereno)

"The Philippine Supreme Court’s unprecedented and nefarious removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno constitutes a frontal assault on human rights protections and democratic rule," Caloy Conde, HRW Researcher, Asia Division, said in a statement on Friday, May 11.

Conde said Sereno's ouster goes beyond the vote of her colleagues in the Supreme Court, as it comes a month after President Rodrigo Duterte branded her as his "enemy."

He said the removal of Sereno through quo warrant paves the way for a similar ouster of impeachable officers, a sentiment shared by critics of the decision as well as SC justices who voted against Sereno's removal through quo warranto. (READ: After quo warranto, Supreme Court now vulnerable – Leonen and Supreme Court committed suicide without honor – Caguioa)

“Sereno’s ouster also kicks open the door for wanton removals of members of other constitutional bodies, such as the Commission on Human Rights. Ultimately, the rejection of constitutional checks and balances concentrates power in the hands of Duterte and his allies, posing the greatest danger to democracy in the Philippines since the Marcos dictatorship," Conde said.

Sereno was ousted as chief justice after the High Court, with a vote of 8-6, granted the quo warranto petition to remove her from office on the basis of an invalid appointment. Sereno was accused of not submitting her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) on certain years when she was a professor at the Univeristy of the Philippines.

“Sereno, 57, is just the latest in a growing list of institutions and individuals – including Philippine media outlets and United Nations officials – who have been vilified by Duterte for seeking accountability for human rights violations,” Conde said.

Conde was referring to the the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision to revoke Rappler’s registration, which is under appeal, and Duterte administration's tirades against UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard. –