CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was simply “dreaming” when she thought President Rodrigo Duterte was behind moves to remove her from office.
The President himself said that Wednesday night during the benefit Christmas Dinner of the ruling PDP-Laban party, insisting that he has no plans to interfere with the work of the legislative and the judiciary.
“Ito si Sereno, sabi niya, [Sereno here, she said] ‘Duterte had a hand’—no. Maski magtanong ka kahit sino diyan, [Ask anyone around], anybody now connected [with the case]—she is just dreaming,” the President said.
“I don’t know what she’s talking about, I don’t mind, and I never interfere,” he added in Filipino.
The President, however, said he is “not apologizing or making any excuse” for when he questioned Sereno’s alleged partisanship and corrupt acts during her five-year term as Chief Justice.
Earlier, Sereno said she has no idea on Duterte’s motive in pushing for her ouster, considering they have never had any personal conflict.
“We have had no personal skirmish at all. The only time I remember that he made a remark against me was in connection with the letter I wrote to him in August of 2016, requesting that due process be afforded the judges,” she recalled.
In previous speeches, Duterte said he would be filing impeachment raps against Sereno himself, and called for her resignation for allowing herself to be used as a pawn to throw him off the presidency.
Palace Spokesman Harry Roque also stressed that Duterte wanted Sereno “to be removed altogether, by all means”—and that her resignation would spare the judiciary from “further damage.”
On Thursday, Sereno debunked a claim made by Eligio Mallari, a lawyer allied with the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, about the inordinate delay in the resolution of a pending case involving the Philippine National Bank over two parcels of land in San Fernando, Pampanga.
Mallari has complained that since the case was filed in Feb. 8, 2013, the case has not moved.
The Chief Justice denied that the case has been pending for 37 years as the lawyer claimed.
“This is untrue. There have already been three decisions by the Supreme Court on these parcels of land, all of which are entitled ‘Spouses Mallari vs. PNB’: G.R. no. 61093, decided on May 25, 1988, G.R. no. 106615 on March 20, 2002 and reversed on January 15, 2004,” she said in a statement.
Sereno noted that in line with another case related to these parcels of land and new issues raised before the high court in year 2013, with G.R. No. 204743, the case was initially raffled off to the First Division.
But later, because of the movement caused by retirements in the SC, it was transferred from the First Division to the Third Division.
It was recently returned to the First Division—which is chaired by Sereno and in which Associate Justice Teresita De Castro, who has testified in Congress against the Chief Justice, is the working chairperson, the statement said.
Sereno said: “That the matter is with the First Division… is by itself insufficient basis to charge anybody for undue delay.”
Atty. Mallari “should know very well” that the Supreme Court “is a collegial and deliberative body which adjudicates en banc or in division,” she added.
“We advise Atty. Mallari and the public to thoroughly verify the facts before coming to any conclusion regarding cases. After all, a precondition to justice is the truth,” Sereno stressed.