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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Judges, court workers step up Sereno quit call

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JUDGES and court employees on Monday reiterated their call for Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to resign before the Supreme Court decides on her fate when it rules on the petition seeking her ouster on Friday.

The judges and court employees manifested their call for Sereno’s resignation by wearing red shirts and red neckties during flag-raising ceremony before the Supreme Court.

Philippine Judges Association president Judge Felix Reyes and SC Employees Association president Erwin Ocson were spotted wearing red.

In a statement, SCEA explained that they again held the “Red Monday” protest to press for a change in the leadership of the judiciary.

“This is to show our collective action to show the truth and pursue reform in the Supreme Court and the judiciary,” the group said.

PJA and SCEA had earlier issued a joint manifesto calling for Sereno to resign “to give the entire judiciary the opportunity to move forward and get back to order.”

The organizations cited demoralization among their ranks and said the impeachment proceedings against Sereno had placed the “entire judiciary in disrepute, thereby affecting the honor and integrity” of the magistrates and judges.

Ocson said they have other issues that have not been addressed by Sereno since she assumed the top judicial post in 2012, but he did not discuss them because of sub judice rule due to the pending quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against her before the Supreme Court.

“The real reason behind this are the acts and policies of the chief justice which really [adversely] affected the employees,” he said.

Reyes aid that their 1,200-strong group joined the call for Sereno’s resignation after “looking at the big picture and what’s best for all of us.”

A civil society group held a protest outside the Supreme Court and also called for Sereno’s resignation.

Members of the Citizens’ Crime Watch led by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio asked the embattled chief justice to resign before the Court rules on the quo warranto case for her own benefit.

Topacio said that only by resigning would Sereno be able to preserve her record as chief justice, because if the Supreme Court grants Calida’s petition, her name will be removed from the record of chief justices.

“If she resigns instead, her name and position as chief justice will be preserved in the annals of judicial history. She gets to keep her portrait there in the Supreme Court as a former chief justice,” the lawyer said.

“It could actually be heroic on her part because it could end the conflict inside the SC. She will emerge a larger person by making the sacrifice for the sake of the country and the people so that this issue will come to an end and we can go on with our lives,” Topacio added.

Topacio, chairman of the CCW’s legal committee, said their resignation call against Sereno is nothing personal.

“We’re not calling for her resignation just because we hate her. This is just part of the process. It would appear that she’s not qualified and I believe that if the majority of her colleagues or her brethren in the Supreme Court find it to be so, well it should be time for her to go,” he said.

In filing the quo warranto case against Sereno, Calida sought the nullification of her appointment as chief justice due to alleged failure to meet the “integrity test” when she submitted only three of her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth  in 2012 when the JBC rules required at least 10 SALNs.

Under the Rules 66 of the Rules of Court, a quo warranto petition may be initiated by the solicitor general when “directed by the President of the Philippines, or when upon complaint or otherwise he has good reason to believe that any case specified in the preceding section can be established by proof, must commence such action.”

Should the Court grant the petition against Sereno, it would invalidate her appointment to the top judicial post and her name as 24th chief justice of would be removed from the Court records.

Sereno has called for inhibition of six magistrates for alleged biases against her – Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Samuel Martires.

The Court is set to decide on Sereno’s case in a special session on May 11.

Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday urged the Supreme Court to “do what is needed to protect the independence of the courts and [the] judicial system.”

Speaking before the Forum on the Philippine Justice System at the University of the Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance in Diliman, Quezon City, Robredo maintained her commitment to “defend what is right.”

The removal of Sereno through the quo warranto case would only “weaponize” the courts, or turn them into weapons to intimidate and kill dissent, she said.

The success of the quo warranto case would be the final blow to the ideal of justice, she added. 


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