TIMELINE: The many times Duterte and Sereno clashed

TIMELINE: The many times Duterte and Sereno clashed
Rappler lists the instances President Rodrigo Duterte and ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno have locked horns since 2016

MANILA, Philippines – The ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice is seen by many as the culmination of efforts by the Duterte administration to unseat her. 

Sereno herself calls out President Rodrigo Duterte for his alleged involvement in her removal from office – a claim denied by the chief executive.

This is not the first time they have criticized each other.

Rappler lists the instances Duterte and Sereno have locked horns since 2016. 


August 7 

Duterte includes judges in a list of more than 150 officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade. 

August 8 

Sereno writes Duterte a 4-page letter regarding his drug list, which includes judges. She says Duterte‘s “premature announcement of an informal investigation on allegations of involvement with the drug trade will have the unwarranted effect of rendering the judge veritably useless in discharging his adjudicative role.” 

She points out that since the judiciary is an independent branch of government, it must follow its own procedures in determining the guilt of the judges on the list.

August 9

While speaking to military officers in Cagayan de Oro, Duterte responds to Sereno’s letter. He tells her to stop insinuating he is trying to create a “constitutional crisis” by including 7 judges in his drug list.

The President also calls out Sereno for allegedly interfering in his job, even threatening to declare martial law if the chief justice continues her actions. 

“Do not create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you. Ito prangkahan, kasi nakialam kayo (I’m being frank, because you meddled),” he says.

August 12 

In a press conference in Davao City, Duterte reveals his intent to allow the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery). Duterte says his decision is in accordance with the law, as Marcos served as soldier and president.

Duterte also apologizes to Sereno for his “harsh words.”

November 8

In a 10-5 vote, the Supreme Court (SC) allows a hero’s burial for Marcos.

Sereno dissents, saying she cannot support “such an expedient and shortsighted view of Philippine history.”



On May 23, Duterte places Mindanao under martial law because of the Marawi siege.

Three days later, Sereno speaks before Ateneo graduates, as she discards a prepared speech to warn against the abuses of martial law. (READ: The Atenean facing martial law)

“Suffice it to say that the martial law power is an immense power that can be used for good, to solve defined emergencies; but all earthly powers when abused can result in oppression,” Sereno says. 

August 30

Pro-Duterte lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon files an impeachment complaint against Sereno.

Gadon cites Sereno’s allegedly untruthful declarations in her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) as grounds for her impeachment. At least 25 lawmakers endorse Gadon’s complaint. 

October 5

Voting 25-2, the House justice committee rules that Gadon’s complaint has sufficient grounds for Sereno’s impeachment

November 6

Malacañang calls on Sereno to resign “to spare the institution from any further damage.”

“I call upon Chief Justice Sereno to really consider resigning only to spare the institution from any further damage,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque says during a press briefing.


February 28 

Sereno’s camp announces that she will go on an indefinite leave to prepare for her possible impeachment trial. Sereno, however, maintains that her indefinite leave is not a resignation.

March 5 

Solicitor General Jose Calida files a quo warranto petition against Sereno to nullify her appointment.

Calida says Sereno failed to fully declare her wealth in 17 out of the 28 years that she taught at the University of the Philippines. He accuses Sereno of “usurpation of public office” as public officials are required to file their SALNs.

In a press conference, Calida says Sereno’s failure to comply with the law shows her “lack of integrity” and proves that she is “unlawfully holding the position of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”

March 8

In a 38-2 vote, the House justice committee decides there is probable cause for Sereno to be impeached. This ends months of deliberation by the committee. Ten days later, they approve the articles of impeachment against Sereno.

“Throughout the probable cause hearing, this committee has gathered sufficient evidence to provide us the ammunition to prosecute this case to victory,” says House panel chairman Reynaldo Umali. 

The House is yet to vote and transmit the case to the Senate. 

April 9 

Sereno says the quo warranto petition against her is “unconstitutional.” Sereno also alleges that there is a “moving hand” pushing for her impeachment, and hints it is Duterte.

“Mr President, if you have no hand in this, why did Solicitor General Jose Calida, who reports to you, file the quo warranto?” Sereno says.

On the same day, Duterte declares that Sereno is his enemy.

“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 says.

May 11

Voting 8-6, the SC ousts Sereno by granting the quo warranto petition against the chief justice.

Sereno’s camp is set to appeal this ruling. 

Many legal groups say the SC decision can “erode rule of law” in the Philippines. Fourteen senators, meanwhile, file a resolution calling on the High Court to review its decision.

May 16

Duterte denies he was involved in the efforts to oust Sereno from the SC.

“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 insists.

May 17

Ousted Sereno, in her strongest speech yet against Duterte, demands his resignation. She says his past remarks – when he called her an enemy and asked Congress to fast-track her impeachment, for example – prove he had a hand in her ouster. – with reports from Jodesz Gavilan and Lian Buan/Rappler.com

Nicole Lorena is a Rappler intern.

This piece will be updated.

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