Sereno dares Duterte: Quit
Ousted chief justice ups the ante, hits out at President’s ‘failures’
OUSTED chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to resign for having a hand in the plot to remove her as the country’s top magistrate, and tore into him on a wide range of issues, from his failure to stem rising prices to his policy toward China.
Speaking before the Quo Vadis, Quo Warranto forum organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Pasig City, Sereno recalled President Duterte’s earlier remarks that he would resign if it were proven that he had a role in her ouster.
“Yesterday he said [talk of his involvement] was not true, and that he would resign. How many times have we heard him say he will resign?” Sereno told the forum participants in Filipino.
“From his own mouth, he admitted that he started the campaign to remove me. So, Mr. President, resign now!” she said.
She recalled that Duterte had referred to her as his enemy, in response to her question regarding Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition against her.
At the time, Duterte even asked his allies in Congress to speed up the impeachment process, Sereno said.
Sereno was ousted last week as chief justice after the Supreme Court voted 8-6 to grant the quo warranto petition against her, finding her unqualified for the position because she failed to file her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth—a failure that nine justices believed was a violation of the Constitution.
In her speech Thursday, Sereno said Calida’s attempt to expel her would have ended if Duterte had no hand in it.
“If he does not want it, it could have ended, but it did not end. Clear as day,” Sereno said in an interview after the forum.
The ousted magistrate also raised the ante on her attacks against the President, slamming his leadership for failing to arrest rising prices of basic commodities, the weak value of the peso, the perpetration of extrajudicial killings, his intolerance of dissent, his use of vulgar language as well as his foreign policy.
She said when Duterte cursed a person out on national TV or threatened to shoot her in her sensitive parts, were outright threats and intimidation.
Sereno also said the unsolved killings perpetrated by motorcycle-riding men is instilling fear in the public, reminiscent of what the country faced in the 1970s.
She also noted the threats received by journalists for doing their job.
Sereno also took offense at Duterte’s remarks that Chinese President Xi Jinping will not allow his removal from office adding that it seems Duterte has no respect for the Constitution.
“Should I also go to Mr. Xi Jinping because Duterte is accountable to China?” she said. “I thought our Constitution was the Constitution of the Philippines, not China, so I should have gone to China and spoken to the lieutenants of Mr. Xi Jinping,” Sereno said to laughter from the audience.
She said what Duterte is doing constitutes a betrayal of public trust and his statements regarding China could even be taken as an impeachable offense.
She said what is happening in the country was a sign that the dictatorship has begun.
“Do we have to wait for a proclamation to say the dictatorship is here now?”
She said those who pushed for her ouster did not even have the guts to bring the impeachment case against her to trial before the Senate, where her side would be heard.
In the same forum, Sereno declined to comment on questions about her plans to run for public office, but emphasized she was not a politician.
But she said she is willing to lead the fight for respect of the rule of law and accountability.
Meanwhile, the Palace said President Duterte does not discriminate against women working in government, after he said he didn’t want a politician or a woman to become the next chief justice.
In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque believed that the President may have been quoted out of context when he was asked by a reporter who he wants to be the next chief justice.
“I want someone with integrity. Not a politician and even more so, not a woman,” the President said in Filipino in a video posted on social media.
“To my knowledge, there is no discrimination and anyone can be appointed in the government,” Roque said.
President Duterte also did not mention Sereno in the video interview.
Roque was reacting to criticism from various groups, calling the statement sexist.
But Roque believed the discussion was focused on the Ombudsman and said he did not hear the question about the chief justice.
Roque said he had “no idea” why the President made the remark and said he would clarify it with him when they meet over the weekend in Cebu.