The remark of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno which seemed to be calling for mobilization to fight for democracy was not something that would incite sedition, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
In a press conference a week before President Rodrigo Duterte’s 4th State of the Nation Address, Sereno reminded the President that “he is not above God, the people, nor the Constitution and that he is no king.”
The former top magistrate then called on the public to unite despite differences in ideologies for the sake of “upholding what is good and true.”
“I call on the people to unite so that we can call for a better, nobler, upright leadership; one that is not led by hatred and violence, but by principle and example,” she said.
Asked if she is calling for a People Power Revolution against the President, Sereno said: “It’s up to you what characterization do you want to call it… So, to those who have not participated in this kind of acts, it’s time you show yourselves.”
Sought for comment, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo did not view Sereno’s remark as something that would threaten the administration.
“Not at all,” he told reporters.
“Maybe she just wants to join the rallies. We are okay about staging rallies against this government. In fact, it’s the President who encourages that.”
According to Panelo, the President’s chief legal counsel, under the Constitution, legitimate grievances against the government can be freely expressed.
“If she will join the opposition to exercise her freedom of expression then, by all means, we will egg her to do that,” he said.
The problem, however, is when the public performs acts which are seditious as defined by law, Panelo explained.
“Like for instance, when you invite people to hate a particular public official like the President, that’s seditious; you incite them to not to follow the laws, that’s seditious,” he added.
During the Chief Executive’s SONA, a coalition of opposition personalities and groups are planning to stage protests and show its strongest opposition to Duterte’s programs and stance on several matters. Nat Mariano
Meanwhile, the Palace said Duterte will only have a “short” speech in his 4th SONA.
“By the way, he said that, because I asked him about the Sona this morning. He said, ‘Oh, it will be short’,” Panelo said.
He explained that the President’s speech would be short this year because of the three pre-SONA fora this July, where Cabinet Clusters discussed the achievements of the administration this year.
“Since the pre-Sonas are already doing that, so I don’t think the President will have to repeat that,” Panelo said.
Aside from highlighting the achievements, Duterte is also set to “educate” the critics and detractors on the constitutionality of his verbal agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping over the South China Sea.