Philippine Supreme Court removes Duterte 'enemy' judge

Former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno waving to supporters in front of the Supreme Court building in Manila yesterday. AFP PIC

Former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno waving to supporters in front of the Supreme Court building in Manila yesterday. AFP PIC

Supreme Court's Justice Qazi Faez Isa expressed reservations over his separation from a bench hearing a case pertaining to the interpretation of Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan.

We are swimming in a political environment that, in the first place, emboldened 8 justices to nitpick from the text of the Constitution and from Sereno's snooty behavior to empower the unelected to dismiss a chief justice.

"I am a victim today, but I am just one of so many thousands upon thousands whose lives have been snuffed out, who continue to remain in detention, who have been unfairly accused or unfairly victimized by the very powerful forces in our society that must be exposed for what they are", Sereno said. She has warned that efforts by the Duterte administration to oust her are a threat to democracy, saying the petition that led to Friday's vote violates the constitution, which stipulates that top officials like her can only be removed by impeachment.

He said his opinion was based on facts and made in self-defense of Sereno's "unprovoked assaults" against him (Sereno blocked Jardaleza's appointment in 2014 and called him a traitor for wanting to exclude the Taiwan-controlled Itu Aba from the United Natons arbitration on the West Philippine Sea).

An hour after the decision, Sereno emerged from her office and urged her supporters to "defend the constitution and fight wrongdoing".

"Let us set aside our differences because there is a greater and stronger enemy that we must all face", she told the cheering throng.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan also says Congress should insist on its exclusive constitutional role to remove key officials like her through impeachment. He was incensed that Sereno had openly spoken against maneuvers to gain absolute power.

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Sereno is the latest victim of Duterte's drive to establish his dictatorship.

Critics warned the court action would set a risky precedent and give the Duterte administration a legal weapon to muzzle dissent.

Duterte repeatedly denied his supposed role in the quo warranto petition and impeachment complaint against Sereno.

Senators beginning with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III have lambasted the Court's decision, though with belated force.

In October a year ago, Duterte dared Sereno to open her bank account to public scrutiny, accusing her of corruption and of being used by his political opponents.

This means that even if Sereno files her motion for reconsideration, her ouster as Chief Justice and as member of the SC is immediately enforceable. Her predecessor, Renato Corona, was impeached by the House in 2011 and became the first chief justice to be convicted in a 2012 Senate trial for failing to accurately disclose his bank deposits and properties.

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