Chief Justice Sereno should resign, Duterte's spokesman says
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should resign to spare the judiciary from further damage, Malacanang said on Monday.
In a press briefing, newly-appointed Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who was a member of the House of Representatives prior to his new post, expressed belief that there was merit in the impeachment complaint filed against Sereno by another lawyer.
"So I call upon Chief Justice Sereno to really consider resigning if only to spare the institution from any further damage," he said.
Roque said it is high time for Sereno to "re-examine very carefully the effect of another removal to the institution itself."
"It cannot be that there will be a second instance that a sitting Chief Justice will be removed as a result of decision of the Senate. We cannot wait for that. If we were to wait for that, it is the finding of guilt that will undermine the independence of the judiciary," said Roque, a lawyer.
Carlo Cruz, Sereno's spokesperson, said resignation has never an option for the chief justice.
"The Chief Justice needs to face the impeachment proceeding precisely to preserve the dignity and independence of both the Supreme Court and the Office of the Chief Justice," Cruz said in a statement in response to the resignation call made by presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
"She has done nothing to damage the institution, and she has been doing everything to strengthen it," Cruz added.
In December 2011, the late Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached by the House of Representatives. After about five months of trial, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, declared Corona guilty of betraying public trust and committing culpable violation of the Constitution, particularly for his failure to fully declare his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Asked if his call for Sereno was also President Rodrigo Duterte's position, Roque said, " Of course, the President wants her to be removed altogether, by all means. And, of course, like Andy Bautista, she could spare the court from further damage by voluntarily resign(ing)."
He was referring to former Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista who also faced impeachment complaint before the House of Representatives. But since he resigned last month, Bautista would no longer undergo the impeachment proceeding.
Sereno has said there was an apparent resurgence of political forces that have threatened and harassed the independence of the judiciary in the wake of the impeachment complaint against her.
Roque debunked this, saying, "I do not know what Malacanang has done or at least the Executive has done to undermine independence of the judiciary."
"The President is still an officer of the court as a lawyer. He has taken an oath to uphold his duties as an officer of the court. And crucial to that duty is to uphold the independence of what really is the weakest branch of government although we consider as a co-equal branch of government," he said.
He said the impeachment proceeding could not be a means by which to undermine the independence of the judiciary because it is a constitutional procedure.
"If at all, perhaps what will undermine the independence of the judiciary would be acts committed by judicial agents that would lead to the initiation of the impeachment proceedings. She has only to blame herself if she feels that the impeachment proceeding has affected the independence of the judiciary," he explained.
Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno for allegedly committing culpable violation of the Constitution for supposedly falsifying some Court resolutions, failing to truthfully disclose her SALN and manipulating the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council.
He also accused Sereno of corruption for having extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering a purchase of a P5-million brand new vehicle as her personal car, staying in opulent hotels in the Philippines and abroad, flying with her staff and security on business or first class, and use public funds to flaunt her extravagance by unnecessarily bringing huge entourage of lawyers to her trips abroad.
He alleged that the chief magistrate also committed other high crimes when she obstructed justice by ordering the Muntinlupa City judges not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila de Lima, and embellishing her personal data sheet in her application for the judiciary to overstate her credentials, among others.
According to Gadon, Sereno also betrayed public trust when she sent strongly-worded and misplaced reply to Duterte in the judges allegedly link to illegal drugs, thereby inviting head-on collision between the presidency and the judiciary; she attacked the martial law declaration while it was then pending before the high court; and usurping the mandate of the Court en banc by arrogating to herself alone the running of the high court and the judiciary, among others.
But Sereno has insisted that not one of the charges constitutes a valid ground for impeachment.
"All of them are bereft of any basis in fact and in law," she has said. Celerina Monte/DMS