MANILA, Philippines – In her strongest speech yet against President Rodrigo Duterte, ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno went all out, demanding his resignation.
In a forum on Thursday, May 17, Sereno said Duterte's past remarks calling her an enemy and asking Congress to fast-track her impeachment are proof that he had a hand in her ouster.
"Kahapon sinasabi niyang hindi totoo na magre-resign daw siya. Pang-ilang beses na po nating narinig na magre-resign siya? Galing sa kanyang bibig, ang pag-amin na siya ang pasimula at magpupursigi sa pagtanggal sa akin. Puwes, Ginoong Pangulo, mag-resign ka na," Sereno said.
(He said yesterday it isn't true that he will resign. How many times have we heard from him that he would resign? It came from his mouth, the admission that he initiated and pushed for my ouster. In that case, Mr President, resign.)
Duterte on Wednesday night, May 16, denied involvement in Sereno's ouster.
"I said if there is one congresswoman or congressman, or a Justice, single Justice who will say I talked to them, I can guarantee you, I will resign," he said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday refused to comment on Sereno's call for Duterte to resign.
"Hayaan na po natin siya at hayaan na natin siyang manahimik bilang pribadong indibidwal," Roque said. (Let us leave her alone, and let us leave her in peace as a private individual.)
China ties as grounds for impeachment?
Sereno also slammed Duterte's friendliness toward Asian giant China. Her question: Can the President be impeached over it?
"'Yung pagsasabi niya ng lahat ng papuri tungkol sa gobyernong Tsina, papasok po ba 'yun sa grounds for impeachment?" an agitated Sereno said. (Can his praises for the Chinese government be counted as grounds for impeachment?)
Sereno said it is unacceptable for Duterte to hail the supposed statement of Chinese President Xi Jinping vowing to protect the Philippine president from ouster.
Duterte had said: "The assurances of Xi Jinping were very encouraging. 'We will not – ,' eh nandiyan naman sila (anyway they're there). 'We will not allow you to be taken out from your office, and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs."
Reacting to that, Sereno said: "Kaya po ba nating tanggapin na ang protektor ng ating pangulo ay isang banyagang gobyerno? Aminin na po niya, ano na ba ang plano niya sa bayan? Gagawin niya ba tayong probinsiya ng China? Sabihin na niya, makipagtapatan na po siya."
(Are we ready to accept that the protector of our president is a foreign government? Can he tell us straight what he plans for the country? Does he plan to make our country a Chinese province? He should tell us, come clean to us.)
Sereno, who was ousted by an unprecedented quo warranto vote, also mocked Duterte's friendliness with Xi. "Eh di sana pala pumunta rin ako kay Xi Jinping (Maybe I should have gone to Xi Jinping also)," she said.
Sereno added: "Gano'n naman pa lang ang accountability niya ay sa Tsina, gano'n naman pala. Akala ko ang accountability ko sa Pilipino. Buong akala ko ang konstitusyon ay konstitusyon ng Pilipinas, hindi konstitusyon ng Tsina."
(So it turns out his accountability is to China, that's how it is. I thought my accountability was to the Filipino people. I thought the constitution was the Philippine Constitution, not the Chinese Constitution.)
Duterte's administration has been heavily criticized for softening its stance on China, which has conducted massive reclamation in the West Philippine Sea, including in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.