MANILA, Philippines – Disturbed by claims that the Supreme Court (SC) en banc forced Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to go on leave, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) has lamented that the said Justices “practically impeached their own colleague, instead of letting the process take its course.”
On Tuesday, Sereno’s spokesperson lawyer Josa Deinla said the top magistrate is taking a “wellness leave” effective March 1 to 15, during which she intends to “prepare her defense” for her impending impeachment trial.
But during Sereno’s impeachment trial at the House of Representatives on the same day, House justice committee chair Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali claimed that the SC en banc compelled Sereno to go on an “indefinite leave.”
“Ito mismo,sila nagsasabi ng kasinungalingan (They are telling lies). ‘Yung wellness leave it was an indefinite leave… Majority, if not all of en banc head, forced her to go on leave,” Umali said.
“Iba ang lumalabas sa bibig niya o bibig ng mga spokespersons niya. Pati yata mga spokespersons niya nahawa na sa kasinungalingan. (This is what her spokespersons are saying. Even her spokespersons are now telling lies.)”
If true, the NUPL said, this incident “exposes the widening cracks in the institution which impact on the independence of the Judiciary, the Court’s very integrity, and ironically, on respect for the Constitution apparently because of political designs, personal considerations, or convenient acquiescence to the dark side.”
“Worse, the said Justices have practically impeached their own colleague, instead of letting the process take its course, in accordance with the Constitution they swore to uphold and to stand as supposed symbols of law and justice,” it said in a statement.
But NUPL stressed that in the end, the losing party in this fiasco is not the Chief Justice nor any Justice of the Court, nor the Court or the entire judicial system.
“It is the residual faith of the people in already unresponsive institutions whose roles are being wilted away, willingly or unwillingly, to de facto authoritarianism,” it said.
Despite the issue, another Sereno spokesperson maintained that the Chief Justice would not step down.
“She believes she did not commit an impeachable offense, so she has no plans to resign,” Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao said.
Lawyer-complainant Lorenzo Gadon is accusing the top magistrate of committing corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.
The House justice committee continues to deliberate on the probable cause of the impeachment case lodged against Sereno, while Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said the upper chamber was now preparing for Sereno’s trial. (davaotoday.com)