Rights group calls for judicial independence amid Sereno ouster

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. File  Mark Demayo ABS-CBN News

Although she did not mention President Rodrigo Duterte by name, she alluded to many issues under his leadership, including extrajudicial killings, which have been raised by rights activists and critics.

"Nakibot ako. I was thinking all the while nga they will deny the petition", he said.

Lawyer Mundlyn Misal-Martin, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu Chapter, said she was surprised by the decision and that it was "something that I look forward to reading and learning from".

The justices who voted to remove her seized "the sole responsibility of the Senate, brazenly violated their sworn responsibility to protect the constitution and destroyed the judiciary", the 57-year-old former law professor said. "Lourdes Sereno", he said.

Some senators, however, have already expressed doubt that the House of Representatives will transmit to the Senate the grounds for Sereno's supposed impeachment after the SC, voting 8-6, granted the quo warranto petition.

According to Atty. Leo Sombiro, impeachment and not a quo warranto petition is the process to remove a sitting SC justice.

Sereno's dismissal was based on a quo warranto case filed before the SC which questioned her qualifications to head the tribunal for failing to file a document known as the statement of assets, liabilities and networth (Saln).

Sereno was facing a separate impeachment bid in the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte's allies. The Constitution has given the duty of interpreting the law to the highest court of the land and we must abide by it regardless of our disagreement with its ruling. I urge the public to remain calm. "We also ask the Supreme Court justices to reconsider their decision to prevent this constitutional crisis", the group added. The respondent Chief Justice must be given the opportunity to file a Motion for Reconsideration.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen stressed the landmark ruling "gravely diminishes" judicial independence and threatens the ability of the Supreme Court to uphold the people's rights.

"The people must be given time to review this decision". He also says Sereno should appeal.

On Friday, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, an ally of Sereno, said the Supreme Court's ruling marked "a black day for justice and the rule of law".

"It primarily affects the entire nation as the Supreme Court literally sprawled the red carpet for dictatorial rule".

"The Chief Justice is an "impeachable official" who can be removed only after impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate", he added. "Let's continue to spread the message of democracy and reason", she told the crowd. She has been speaking up for the respect of law and human rights, irking Duterte at a time he has led a brutal crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of suspects dead. "That is how democracy works", Panelo said.

Maria Lourdes Sereno was the first female chief justice of Philippines' highest court, and she is an outspoken critic of Duterte's controversial war on drugs.

Sereno had resisted the ouster effort, saying in March: 'The current state of the nation is one where perceived enemies of the dominant order are considered fair game for harassment, intimidation and persecution'.

Related news: