THE camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno on Wednesday condemned what it called a “coordinated extra-constitutional” efforts to pressure the chief magistrate to quit her post, even before an impeachment case is brought before the Senate by the House of Representatives for trial.
Sereno’s spokesmen, lawyers Jojo Lacanilao and Josa Deinla maintained that the Chief Justice will not quit her post, despite alleged pressure from her fellow magistrates to do so.
Lacanilao said it would be unconstitutional for the Supreme Court (SC) to force her to resign because only the Chief Justice can decide on that.
“Resignation is a personal decision; it cannot be an institutional decision of the Supreme Court,” Lacanilao said, referring to reports that some justices confronted Sereno during their en banc session on Tuesday and advised her to just vacate her post.
Lacanila said Sereno is looking forward to have the impeachment case brought to the Senate for trial where she will have the chance to prove that all the allegations against her were baseless and unfounded.
On Tuesday, Sereno informed Deputy Clerk of Court Atty. Anna-Li Papa Gombio that she was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the High Court starting March 1.
Meanwhile, Sereno said that she will use her leave of absence to prepare for her legal defense in the looming trial in the Senate where she intends to fight the impeachment case fair and square, not only for herself but for the entire judiciary.
“I need to prepare to fight the accusations against me fairly and squarely, with honor, dignity and grace,” Sereno said in her keynote address at the 25th National Convention of the Regional Trial Court Clerks of Court Association of the Philippines (RCAP) held at the
historic Manila Hotel.
“It makes me proud to fight for you,” Sereno told court employees attending the RCAP event, which was her last public engagement before her leave starts on Thursday, March 1.
The country’s top magistrate assured court workers that the judiciary will continue to fulfill its mission of upholding the rule of law and delivering justice to every Filipino, despite her leave of absence.
“I want to give you the assurance that, while I will be taking a leave of absence, the ship of state of the judiciary remains on course,” Sereno stated.
Lacanilao added that Sereno has not lost her faith in the impeachment process, which culminates in a decision by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, to either acquit or convict her.
“We want to emphasize that Chief Justice Sereno has no intention to resign at all from her post as Chief Justice,” Lacanilao said, insisting that Sereno had not done anything wrong or illegal to warrant her removal from office.
He assured, though, that Sereno would step down immediately if she will be found guilty by the Senate.
“There is no body or institution outside of the Senate that can force the Chief Justice to resign. Nobody can decide that other than the Senate,” Lacanilao said.
The 1987 Constitution explicitly states that an impeachable official can only be removed from office by impeachment, the sole power to impeach an official belongs to the House of Representatives, and the sole court for impeachment trials is the Senate.
Any attempt to remove the Chief Justice that does not fall under these parameters is “patently unconstitutional,” Lacanilao added.
Deinla said there appears to be a “desperate and coordinated” effort to remove the Chief Justice through extraconstitutional means.
She cited what she called “unrelenting attacks and use of every legal trick imaginable,” such as the attempt to force Sereno to resign, the call for the Office of the Solicitor General to initiate a quo warranto petition against her, the filing of a complaint with the Ombudsman, and the harassment of court officials whose only fault was to speak the truth.
“These are just indications of desperate and coordinated attempts not only to remove the Chief Justice, but also to mock the rule of law,” Deinla said.