UPDATED: “I will not resign,” says Sereno who vows to fight “until the logical end”

Philippine’s Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (C) prays during a press conference in Manila on March 12, 2018.
The Philippine Supreme Court chief justice said she would not resign even after judges and court employees groups nationwide called for her immediate resignation. on Monday, March 12, 2018./ AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

(Eagle News) – Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno insisted she will not resign and will continue her fight to be heard in the impeachment trial that will happen in the Senate until the end.
“I will not resign,” said a defiant Sereno who is on indefinite leave since March 1, 2018.

“I am determined to wage until the logical end this battle started by those who seek to undermine the constitution and the judiciary. I am resolute in carrying on the good and noble fight for judicial independence,” she said in a press conference where she read her statement amid cheers from her supporters.

While admitting that the easier move would be for her to just resign, Sereno said that she would not be doing this as this was not the right thing to do.

She also stressed that it would not be honorable to quit in the middle of the game.

“I do not doubt that resignation is the easier option allowing the weight of the office of the Chief Justice to be immediately lifted off my shoulders, freeing me to pursue and enjoy many things that ordinary citizens do,” she said as she read her statement a few hours after the call for her to resign at the SC grounds was made.

“It will end the unrelenting attack on my person, my staff and other court officials. But I do not make choices in life on the basis of what is the easier option, but what is the right thing to do,” she said.

“Without the slightest doubt, the right thing to do is to fight this impeachment ‘til the end,” she stressed.

Supreme Court employees raise their hands to stress their call for on-leave Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to immediately resign to preserve the dignity of the judicial institution. (Photo by Moira Encina, Eagle News Service)

Sereno’s statement came a few hours after the Supreme Court flag-raising ceremony Monday morning (March 12, 2018) where the call for her immediate resignation was made by the Philippine Judges Association President and Marikina RTC Judge Felix Reyes, Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA), Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees (SCALE), the Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE), and the Sandiganbayan Employees Association (SEA).

Sereno pointed out that only four of the 15 judges associations and employees unions made the call for her resignation, aside from the PJA President Marikina RTC Judge Reyes.

“It is very sad for the institution that some judges and employees whose freedom and conscience and independence I have fought hard to defend have succumbed to pressure to enter the political fray,” the on-leave chief justice said.

“However, it is most encouraging that the two other major judges organizations and several major employees organizations have resisted the pressure to join the call for my resignation,” she noted.

Philippine’s Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno waves as she arrives for a press conference in Manila on March 12, 2018.
The Philippine Supreme Court chief justice vowed to fight “bullying” and save judicial independence as she vowed to defend herself in the impeachment trial that will happen in the Senate. / AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

 

Sereno, who had been making the rounds of television stations last week explaining her position not to quit, insisted that there were more individual judges who were not supportive of the Philippine Judges’ Association (PJA) statement.

She said these individual judges “have refused to be used as pawns and have instead issued calls to maintain the dignity and independence of the judiciary.”

-Love for the judiciary-

“While the call to resign appeals to my love for the judiciary, it is also out of love for the judiciary that I want to continue my course,” Sereno said.

“And I say to you, do not fear the outcome for we will emerge stronger and more highly regarded in the end. But we will not come out honorable if we abort this struggle in the middle.”

The statement read at the SC grounds on Monday morning made by the PJA, the Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA), Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees (SCALE), the Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE), and the Sandiganbayan Employees Association (SEA), was the strongest statement yet coming from court employees and judges themselves calling for Sereno to resign so as to preserve the dignity of the judicial institution.

Their statement was ready during the Supreme Court flag ceremony in the SC ground Monday morning, March 12, 2018, where nine of the SC justices were also present, namely Supreme Court Associate justices Noel Tijam, Mariano del Castillo, Francis Jardeleza, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Presbiterio Velasco, Teresita de Castro, Samuel Martires, and Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna who also heads the Philippine Judicial Academy also attended the flag ceremony where the statement calling for Sereno’s resignation was read.

“The pending impeachment proceedings in recent months have put the entire judiciary in disrepute, thereby affecting the honor and integrity of its justices, judges, officials have pitted against each other resulting in a distressing atmosphere,” their statement read.

“This is aggravated by the fact that the Court en banc has taken cognizance of the petition for quo warrants and ordered her to file her comment thereto, instead of dismissing it outright,” it said.

“The Court can no longer endure a prolonged environment of this kind. Its officials and personnel, truly dedicated and conscientious public servants, cannot go through another set of hearings and go against each other again in the Senate,” it said.

-Defiant Sereno-

But Sereno was defiant when she appeared a few hours later in her press conference.

She blamed those who have started the impeachment complaint as responsible for the mess the judiciary is in.

“The call for my resignation seems to blame me for the mess the judiciary finds itself in, describing justices, judges and employees pitted against each other in congressional hearing,” she said.

Hindi po ako ang nagsimula ng gulo. Sinimulan nila ito. Bakit ayaw nila akong patapusin?” she said.

Sereno also equated her fight as a struggle to preserve judicial independence, as she painted a picture of a judiciary who could be on the path to subservience if she will resign as Chief Justice.

“Resigning from my post as chief justice will only serve to erode the independence of the Supreme Court and embolden those who demand a subservient judiciary,” she said.

“To do so would invite the kind of extraconstitutional adventurism that treats legal rights and procedures as mere inconveniences that should be set aside when it fits the powers that be,” Sereno claimed.
Sereno claimed she was not given the opportunity to be heard during the 18 Congressional hearings which she had refused to attend.

She said that when the lawmakers refused to allow her lawyers to represent her during the house deliberations, her right to be heard was not respected.

House justice committee on November 22, 2017, in a vote of 30-4 did not allow Sereno’s lawyers to cross-examine witnesses against her in an impeachment case being tackled by the panel.

The committee wanted Sereno herself to appear before the inquiry, so she can cross-examine the witnesses herself.

During her press briefing, Sereno hit Congress for this.

Hiningi ko po sa mababang kapulungan na ako ay madinig sa pamamagitan ng aking mga abugado, ngunit akoy tinagggihan. Bagkus walang pakundangangan yinurakan ang aking pagkatao at dangal,” she explained.

“Sa senado lamang po at hindi sa resignasyon ang aking pag-asang marinig,” she added.

Sereno, who is also facing a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court, was very vocal in explaining her position not to resign and in insisting that only the impeachment trial was the proceeding that she recognized as the course that she would undergo in.

She also equated her defiance of calls for her to resign as a form of struggle to defend democracy.

Kung susuko po ako, sinasabi ko na rin sa bawat Pilipino na sumuko sa hirap ng paninindigan sa buhay, lalung lalo na sa pagtatanggol ng ating karapatan at ng ating demokrasya,” she said.

And addressing again the judges and court employees who are now openly seeking her immediate resignation, she said she is also seeking their understanding.

Hinihingi ko po ang pang-unawa ng mga nananawagan sa aking resignasyon, upang magkaroon na ng kapayapaan sa hudikatura, na ani nila ‘mag-move on na ang judiciary,” Sereno said.

“Anong kapayapaan ang tinatawag ninyo kung walang katarungan at walang katarungang makakamit, hangga’t hindi magpapahayag ang bawat panig. Ang hinihiling ko lang po ay hintayin ang aking panig sa senado.”

Sereno claimed if she would not fight this, others would be “victimized” too.

Associate Justice Teresita de Castro testifies for the first time before the House justice panel hearing the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. De Castro attended the hearing on Nov. 29, 2017, a day after she and several others were allowed to make appearances before the panel. /Eagle News Service/

 

-Justices, judges, court officials joined impeachment hearings, says Umali-

Sereno has been accused of falsifying at least one resolution of the Supreme Court, delaying action on the numerous petitions for retirement benefits of justices and judges and their surviving spouse or spouses, manipulating and delaying the resolution on the request of Secretary of Justice to transfer the Maute cases outside of Mindanao, and failure to truthfully disclose her Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) .

She was also accused of manipulating the shortlist to exclude Francis Jardeleza from the shortlist, manipulated the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) shortlist through clustering of nominees of the six vacancies in the Sandiganbayan, and of manipulating the JBC by allegedly influencing its four regular members.

She was also accused of manipulating the JBC by influencing its four regular members, according to House committee on Justice Chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali who recited the long list of offenses that Sereno had been accused of and which were the subject of the deliberations at the House Committee hearings.

House Justice Committee chairperson Rep. Reynaldo Umali announces the results of the voting that finds probable cause to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday, March 8, 2018. (Eagle News Service)

Umali said that “one retired supreme court justice, one justice of the Court of Appeals, two Sandiganbayan justices, three RTC judges, and other Supreme Court officials and employees, and the Secretary of justice” all testified at the committee hearings on the “probability that impeachable acts had been committed” by Sereno as Chief Justice.

-Rep. Umali: Sereno opted to air side in media-

“Notably, the impeachment committee consistently afforded, Supreme Court chief justice sereno the opportunity to participate in the probable cause hearings to be able to defend herself and to refute the controverted charges against her,” Umali said.

“Unfortunately she opted to simply monitor the proceedings, and chose to air her side in another forum – the media – which unfortunately cannot be considered by this committee as part of the proceedings,” he explained.

(Eagle News Service)