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SC employees, judges press Sereno to resign

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno –INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

For the last time, a group of judges and court employees demanded the resignation of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday, ahead of the scheduled Supreme Court vote on the quo warranto petition brought against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Several members of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) and the Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA) wore red shirts or sported something red during the weekly flag-raising ceremony in the high court’s compound on Padre Faura Street in Manila.

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Unlike the three previous “red Monday” protests, only five Supreme Court justices showed up at the assembly.

Of the five, only Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta wore a red necktie.

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Also present were Associate Justices Noel Tijam, Mariano del Castillo, Andres Reyes Jr. and Presbitero Velasco Jr.

The ‘big picture’

“[We are] looking at the big picture [on this issue] and what’s best for all of us,” Marikina City Regional Trial Court Judge Felix Reyes, PJA president, said after the event.

According to SCEA president Erwin Ocson, Sereno failed to act on the concerns of the court employees that they raised to her after her appointment in 2012.

“The real reason behind this are the acts and policies of the Chief Justice [that adversely] affected the employees,” Ocson said.

In a statement, SCEA said the participation of its members in the protest rally was aimed at proving their “collective action to show the truth and pursue reforms in the Supreme Court and the judiciary.”

PJA and SCEA had previously released a joint statement asking the Chief Justice to step down “to give the entire judiciary the opportunity to move forward and get back to order.”

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They said Sereno’s actions put the “entire judiciary in disrepute, thereby affecting the honor and integrity” of the members of the Supreme Court and the judiciary.

May 11 vote

Three Supreme Court sources had earlier disclosed that the 14 justices had agreed to convene a special full-court session on May 11 to vote on Calida’s petition, which questioned Sereno’s integrity for her supposed failure to submit the required number of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth when she applied for the job of Chief Justice.

Various groups have called on the justices to throw out Calida’s petition, as the Constitution provides for impeachment as the only process by which the Chief Justice can be removed from office.

Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday joined the defenders of the constitutional process, saying the quo warranto petition, should it succeed, would be “the final blow to the ideal of justice.”

Speaking at the University of the Philippines, Robredo said Calida’s petition “tramples our Constitution” and vowed “to do everything” in her power “to right this wrong, should it ever come to pass.”

“It weaponizes the courts and if we allow it, a quo warranto can be used as a weapon of intimidation [and] kill dissent,” she said.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said that should it succeed, the quo warranto petition could open more questions on the qualifications of other constitutional officials.

IBP president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said a Supreme Court decision granting the petition could be “highly persuasive” and even “binding” as a precedent.

“This decision would open the floodgates to questions on all qualifications of every constitutional position, every justice of the Supreme Court, or all those who are appointed on the basis of qualifications that were already passed upon by the Judicial and Bar Council and the President,” Fajardo told reporters on the sidelines of the UP forum.

“To us, it should no longer be disturbed at this time except for those objective qualifications,” he said.

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TAGS: Andrea Reyes Jr., court employees, Diosdado Peralta, Jose Calida, judges, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Mariano del Castillo, Noel Tijam, Presitero Velasco Jr., quo warranto petition, Supreme Court
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