Sereno to Duterte: Explain Calida’s unconstitutional petition

Pia Ranada
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno says it's clear that President Rodrigo Duterte is behind moves to oust her

'NEVER SURRENDER.' Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno speaks at an Araw of Kagitingan event on April 9, 2018. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno asked President Rodrigo Duterte to publicly explain the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

“Mr President, kung wala ka man kinalaman dito pakipaliwanag po bakit si SolGen Calida na nagrereport sa iyo ang nag-file ng quo warranto [petition]. Surely, you must explain to the people why this unconstitutional act?” said Sereno on Monday, April 9.

(Mr President, if you really didn’t have anything to do with this, please explain why SolGen Calida, who reports to you, filed the quo warranto petition. Surely, you must explain to the people why this unconstitutional act?)

Sereno had previously been careful not to directly say that Duterte had a hand in moves to oust her. But in the Chief Justice’s Monday speech in front of groups critical of the President, she said the truth was plain to see.

“Sasabihin na naman ng kanyang spokesperson, wala siyang kinalaman. Pero matalino ho ang Pilipino, nakakaintindi po sila. Hindi na kailangan i-spelling para sa kanila ang katotohanan,” said Sereno.

(His spokesperson will say again that he had nothing to do with it. But Filipinos are smart, they understand what is happening. There’s no need to spell out the truth for them.)

Sereno wondered at the basis for the claims made in the impeachment complaint filed against her by lawyer Larry Gadon and Calida’s allegations in his quo warranto petition.

The Chief Justice said it was the “height of absurdity” that even her speech in front of a graduating class of Ateneo de Manila University, in which she called on the public to be vigilant against abuses of power, should be taken against her.

“I am asking for a response. Is that so, President Duterte? Because SolGen Calida filed a quo warranto [petition] and I told the public about possible abuses of power, I should be ousted either by quo warranto or impeachment?” she said in Filipino.

Sereno also refuted claims of extravagance, saying the use of certain types of vehicles and the booking of business class – not first class – airplane tickets is allowed for the Chief Justice under budget circulars.

Sereno also expressed confidence that she would have the opportunity to defend herself at the Senate when it sits as an impeachment court.

She pointed out, however, that the House of Representatives has not yet transmitted to the Senate its reports from the many committee hearings it has held on the impeachment complaint. During these hearings, Sereno’s camp was not allowed to cross-examine resource persons who made claims against her.

“Why do they not want to submit? Because they proved nothing,” she said.

To cheers from the audience, Sereno declared she would not be “bullied,” and called on other members of the judiciary to stay independent “from political powers.” – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.