The right thing to do is to fight – CJ Sereno
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday stood her ground against escalating moves in the judiciary to pressure her into resigning.
“I will not resign,” Sereno said, during a gathering organized by her supporters, led by the multisectoral Coalition for Justice, in Balay Kalinaw at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City.
A group of lower court judges and four organizations of court employees called for Sereno’s immediate resignation on Monday, which retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. said showed the “politicization” of the judiciary.
“The call [for Sereno’s resignation] is far worse than the impeachment and the quo warranto [petition],” Davide said.
“At least in the first two, constitutional processes are resorted to and the requirements of fairness and due process may appear to be satisfied with,” he said.
“[But] the call or demand [that the Chief Justice] resign disregards these requirements,” he added.
Davide urged all court workers to respect Sereno’s right to defend herself and for them not to be involved in the “political fray.”
Sereno, on leave to prepare for her impeachment trial in the Senate, was responding to calls for her resignation earlier in the morning aired at the Supreme Court by members of a group of lower court judges and four unions of court workers.
“While calls to resign appeal to my love for the judiciary, it is also out of love for the judiciary that I must continue my course,” Sereno told the gathering.
“Fight,” her supporters, wearing purple sashes symbolizing judicial independence, chanted.
“Without a doubt, the right thing to do is to fight this impeachment to the end,” Sereno said.
“Resigning from my post will only serve to erode the independence of the Supreme Court and embolden those who demand a subservient judiciary,” she added.
Sereno said resigning “would invite the kind of extraconstitutional adventurism that treats legal rights and procedures as mere inconveniences that must be set aside when it suits the powers that be.”
“It is very sad for the institution that some judges and employees whose freedom and conscience and independence I have fought very hard to defend have succumbed to pressures to enter the political fray,” she said, noting that those who called for her resignation earlier in the day were only one of 15 judges’ associations and four of the many court employees’ unions across the country.
Sereno, however, said she had hope because “two other major judges’ associations and several major employee organizations have resisted the pressure to join the calls for my resignation.”
She also said “many individual judges — more than the number who supported the [Philippine Judges Association’s] statement” stood by her in her calls for judicial independence.
‘They started this’
“The call for resignation seems to blame me for the mess the judiciary finds itself in describing justices, judges and employees pitted against each other in congressional hearings. But I did not start this mess. As I said last week, they started this, why not end it?” Sereno said, reiterating her challenge to the House of Representatives to send the impeachment complaint against her to the Senate.
Addressing the groups that called for her resignation to put an end to turmoil in the judiciary, Sereno said: “What peace will there be if there is no justice? And there will be no justice attained unless all sides are heard. All I ask is that you wait for my side in the Senate.”
The Chief Justice gave a rundown of the “implications” of her resignation: “It would mean I did not stand for the rule of law, that every person accused has a right to be heard and to defend oneself. If I resign, it would be like I told every Filipino to just surrender their principles, especially in the fight for democracy, when faced with difficulties.”
If she resigned, she said, what happened to her—with intrigues spun into grounds for impeachment—could happen to the “next victim.”
“It could be a judge, a constitutional commission [official], a high-ranking elected official,” she added.
Sereno said she was 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 added. —Reports from Jaymee T. Gamil and Marlon Ramos
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.