Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s strongest speech yet happened, but only one of her colleagues in the Supreme Court (SC) has showed appreciation, seemingly confirming her assertions in previous speeches about her “not earning the approval of her peers” and “trekking the lonely road” in voicing her dissent.
During Thursday’s 30th anniversary and 23rd national convention of the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) held in Manila Hotel, Sereno scored the House committee on justice for not giving her the opportunity to face her accusers and respond to the allegations hurled against her.
“The [House] Committee on Justice has denied me my right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses, and resource persons arraigned against me is nothing but blatantly unfair,” Sereno said in her speech.
“I ask that we dispel all thoughts and impulses of malice and ill will; we must denounce gossiping and unfounded innuendos; we do not judge anyone until all the evidence is in.”
“As I must fight to have my day at the Senate impeachment court, this is a fight for judicial independence, for the right of every member of the court to confront her accuser face-to-face in a trial type proceeding,” she also said even adding that a “trial-type proceeding challenges allegations and unmasks lies.”
The House justice panel had refused to allow Sereno’s lawyers to participate during its hearing on the impeachment complaint against her, as it pointed out that the Chief Justice herself, and not her lawyers, should appear before them.
Earlier on Thursday, the House committee found probable cause in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against the country’s top magistrate.
READ: House justice panel finds probable cause to impeach Sereno
Sereno also criticized proponents of the quo warranto petition filed against her at the SC that seeks to remove her from office without an impeachment trial. The SC gave Sereno 10 days to respond to that petition.
“I look at any forum to try me other than the constitutionally exclusive form of impeachment as an admission by the complainant and my other detractors that after 15 hearings, they have failed to come up with any evidence which I can be convicted in the Senate,” she asserted.
“Sila ang nagsimula bakit ayaw nilang tapusin? Napakaaga naman yata para umamin sila na wala silang napala kundi matinding kabiguan kaya’t kung anu-ano na lamang ang gimik ang ginagawa nila masunod lamang ang kanilang nais,” Sereno added.
[They started it, how come they do not want to finish it? Isn’t it too early to admit that they got nothing except utter failure thus they resort to all sorts of gimmick to get what they wanted.]
Most of the Supreme Court (SC) associate justices present in the gathering did not give a round of applause. Sereno, nevertheless, was applauded by women judges across the country that participated in the convention.
Associate Justice Teresita De Castro, on the other hand, stood up and said that Sereno should not have used the event to discuss her case, adding that it is subjudice.
“I sincerely hope that she should not have dealt with a matter that is pending with the court,” said De Castro, president of the PWJA.
Of all the SC magistrates who attended the PWJA convention, only Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. applauded Sereno’s speech.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, currently designated as acting chief justice; and Associate Justices Mariano Del Castillo, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Diosdado Peralta, Alexander Gesmundo, and Estela Perlas Bernabe were also in the PWJA event.
Sereno is on an indefinite leave from the high tribunal to prepare for her looming impeachment trial at the Senate.
In her speech at St. Scholastica’s College on Wednesday, Sereno paid tribute to the first woman justice of the high court – the late SC Associate Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma – by saying “she did not earn the approval of her peers. Instead, she had to trek the lonely road by voicing her dissent against authoritarianism.” /kga/ac