President Rodrigo Duterte made it clear that Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has made an enemy in the presidency.
In a speech in Davao City before departing for overseas trips, Duterte lashed at Sereno who insinuated that he had a hand in the moves to unseat her.
“Ikaw Sereno, sinabi ko na sa’yo, hindi ako makialam, but if you are insisting I have a hand in your impeachment, then count me in. I am now your enemy,” said the President.
Duterte urged the House of Representatives to make the removal of the chief justice quick.
“I will see to it that you will be removed from the Supreme Court,” said Duterte. Addressing the House, he said: “Kindly fast-track the impeachment complaint. Sereno is bad for the Philippines.”
On Monday Sereno – currently on leave as she prepares for a possible impeachment trial at the Senate – insinuated that the President could be behind moves to remove her as chief justice.
In a speech in an event organized by the Movement Against Tyranny in Quezon City, she urged Duterte to explain why it had to be Solicitor General Jose Calida who initiated a quo warranto petition against her.
“Surely, you must explain to the people, why this unconstitutional act,” Sereno said as she questioned the intent in looking into her assets when she was a professor at the University of the Philippines.
“Ano po ba ang pwede kong nakawin sa UP? Meron ba kong kayang itago bilang propesor sa UP?” she said.
“Nakakatawa at nakakahiya na ang solicitor general ay nagbubungkal kung ano ang inideklara ko noong ako ay 30 years old,” she added. “Saan kayo nakakita na para ako tanggalin ay bubungkalin ang aking record sa UP. Ano’ng hypocrisy iyan?”
Moreover, Sereno alleged that Duterte has met with Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon, the lawyer who lodged the impeachment complaint against her at the House of Representatives.
“Hindi ko pa siya (Gadon) ever nakita, ni anino niya. Ngunit lumalabas nakita na pala siya ng ilang beses ni President Duterte, kaya nagtataka ako, ano itong impeachment?” she said.
“Wala siya (Gadon) sa kahit ano’ng activity ng Korte Suprema ngunit sinabi niya under oath na lahat ito ginawa ko – kahit wala siya sa Supreme Court,” Sereno added. “Hindi maitatanggi na may kamay na gumalaw dito.”
Duterte repeatedly denied any hand in the moves to oust Sereno. Gadon also denied the President’s involvement in his filing of the impeachment complaint.
The chief justice was accused of having a lavish lifestyle while failing to fully disclose her wealth.
Sereno also disclosed in her speech that Associate Justice Teresita de Castro has always been against her occupation of the top Supreme Court post.
On her first day as chief justice on Aug. 27, 2012, Sereno approached de Castro to seek cooperation but the latter told her, “I will never forgive you for accepting the chief justiceship,” the former said.
“Sinabi po niya (de Castro) na, ‘You should have not applied in the first place,’” said Sereno.
Sereno sought the “mandatory inhibition” of de Castro from hearing the quo warranto petition, citing bias. Sereno said she included their exchange in her petition.
“Pumunta ako sa bawat justice ng Supreme Court, ke gusto nila ako o hindi. Ako po ang pumunta sa kanilang opisina. Ako po ang tumawag sa kanila,” said Sereno. “Hiningi ko ang kanilng kooperasyon at ang sabi nila hindi pa nagagawa ng kahit na sinumang chief justice ang humingi ng kooperasyon nila.
“Kaya iyong sinabi nila sa impeachment proceedings sa House of Representatives ay taliwas po iyon sa katotohanan na ako po ang bumababa at humingi ng kanilang kooperasyon,” she added.
Sereno also called on four other associate justices – Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, and Noel Tijam – to inhibit from the quo warranto petition hearing.
Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza, and de Castro showed bias against her as they testified during hearings on the impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives, while Tijam showed bias in a quote on a newspaper report, said Sereno.