Sereno stands firm: ‘I’m not considering resignation’
I will not step down.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is facing impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives, made that clear in an exclusive interview with the INQUIRER on Wednesday.
“I’m not considering resignation. This fight is larger than me,” Sereno said, as she fielded questions on a range of topics, from her favorite music genre, to her married life and how her impeachment had affected the Supreme Court.
Sereno appeared confident in the face of dogged attempts of President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in the House to impeach.
Looking relaxed in a blue buttoned-up blouse, the chief magistrate seemed to accept the fact that any efforts to fend off her impeachment in the House would be futile, looking forward instead to presenting “the other part of the story” in an impeachment trial that seems imminent in the Senate.
“If the chief justice herself,” she continued, “will back down from a challenge that is very difficult, then what kind of an example am I setting for the Filipino youth?”
“I think the message will be: ‘If it’s too difficult, quit.’ That is not a lesson I want to impart,” she said. “To the contrary, it must be: ‘You face every challenge with all of fortitude, cling to the truth.’ That alone, in itself, is a victory.”
Asked why she seemed unruffled by the accusations against her, she replied: “It’s because what I am saying is the truth. I have never told a lie.”
“The mandate I was given by the Constitution is quite clear to me – to stand as the head of the judiciary and to fight for its causes,” she said. “And because the mandate is clear, I know that I must be ready to face consequences that arise from being faithful to that mandate.”
Sereno declined to compare her predicament to that of her predecessor, the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, out of respect.
Corona was the first chief magistrate to be unseated after b eing found guilty by the Senate impeachment court of violating the Constitution.
Despite the odds, Sereno said she was prepared for the long haul in defending her integrity and the independence of the judiciary, often regarded as the weakest among the three main branches of the government.
“When you fight and it’s for a worthy cause, you don’t count the odds,” she said. “Because if you count the odds of you winning, it’s as if you only fought because you knew you were going to win. That’s wrong. You fight because that’s the right thing to do, not because of the odds. Then you should be ready with the cost of the fight. You have to prepare yourself.”
Sereno said she did not see the need to personally seek an audience with Duterte to directly defend herself from allegations that she had hidden her real wealth and committed other violations that would merit impeachment as mandated by the Constitution.
“A chief justice must always not just be genuinely independent. She must appear to be independent,” she said. “Just imagine if there is a misinterpretation of any communication I make that can change the people’s faith in the Chief Justice.”
“So I try to make people understand that I have taken an oath to be independent. I have maintained that oath until now. The appearance of independence is very important for me,” she said.
While the public perception put Duterte as the bigger force behind the moves to unseat her, the chief justice maintained that she was not harboring ill-feelings against the chief executive.
Leaning forward as if to make a point, she said she had nothing but respect for the President, who had openly criticized her for her views on certain national issues, and that she would “maintain that to the end.”
“I act on the basis of what is professionally required of me,” she said. “And what is required of me is to treat the President with utmost respect befitting his office and as required of my office.” /atm
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