The Liberal Party (LP) has taken up the cudgels for embattled Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who, as per a House official, was forced to go on an indefinite leave by her colleagues.
The indefinite leave, which Sereno took last March 1, was announced amid the impeachment proceedings against her. On March 7, the House Justice Committee is expected to declare probable cause in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.
“What we are seeing is the Executive and the Legislative branches and some members of the Supreme Court ganging up on Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through the impeachment process and beyond the bounds of such exercise,” the LP said in a statement Saturday, March 3.
“The bedrock of democracy is the rule of law and an independent judiciary branch with unfettered freedom to decide impartially, in accordance with its members’ conscience and facts. Regrettably, what we are seeing is the slow weakening of judicial independence and dilution of check-and-balance that endangers democracy and ushers in the rule of autocracy,” it said.
Sereno was appointed as top magistrate in 2012 by then-president Benigno Aquino III, an LP Leader.
After the 2016 presidential polls, Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) dislodged LP as the country’s top political party.
Last week during the last probable cause hearing on the impeachment case, Justice panel chairman Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali bared that Sereno was told to go on an indefinite leave by her own magistrate-colleagues at the SC. He cited sources for this information.
“We hope we can allow the Chief Justice to have her day in court when the impeachment trial goes to the Senate. The only constitutional way to remove the Chief Justice is through the impeachment process; the magistrates of the high court should know this no less,” the LP pointed out.
“Any machinations to oust her from office outside of impeachment would be in violation of the Constitution that the justices have been sworn to protect and uphold.
“Without judging Chief Justice Sereno’s guilt or innocence, we believe in her firm stance to fight the allegations against her through the impeachment process. It is a fight as well for the independence of the judiciary and for the democratic values instilled in our Constitution,” the erstwhile ruling party added.