PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday stepped up attacks against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, telling her to resign as the country’s top magistrate.
In a news conference held upon his arrival at the Davao International Airport from Hong Kong, Duterte said he would fight Sereno because she was “ignorant” and “dumb,” recalling a time when the chief justice cautioned the public against submitting to warrantless arrests.
“Do not make it a problem for you. Alam mo kung bakit (You know why) I castigated you in public? Ignorante ka e (You’re ignorant). There was a time we were in the thick of the campaign at sinabi mo sa mga (you told the) public, do not submit yourself to an arrest unless there is a warrant for your arrest. Sabi ko hindi ko susundin `yan Madam Justice kasi bobo `yang batas mo (I said I won’t follow it Madam Justice because you’re law is stupid).
You know ‘pag ganun `yan lalaban lahat ‘yan (if that’s the case, everybody will fight back),” Duterte said.
“So sabi ko torpe ka (I said you’re stupid). That’s why you shouldn’t be there. For a chief justice hindi mo alam `yan (you doesn’t know that)… Talagang dapat paalisin ka noon pa. Bobo ka na. T*** i**. Kung anong pinagsasabi mo (That’s why you really have to go, even back then. You’re stupid, son of a b***h, you keep on saying all sorts of things),” he added.
The President said that if Sereno was smart, no one would go against her and she would not make mistakes in her declarations.
“If you are that ignorant, you better go. You are just risking the country into chaos. Umalis ka na. At hindi ka dapat diyan (Leave. And you should not be there) in the first place. And that term of yours, until what…2030? That’s too long for an ignorant chief justice,” he said.
The President then said if he were the chief justice, he would resign.
“Tama na `yan (That’s enough). Give way. If I were you, I will resign,” Duterte said of Sereno, who was appointed to the position in 2012, and has been serving as chief justice for five years and eight months.
Sereno is poised to hold the position for 18 years, or until 2030 when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
A fuming Duterte on Monday openly ordered the Congress to fast-track the impeachment of Sereno. This was in response to Sereno’s remark asking him if he was involved in the moves to nullify her appointment head of the Supreme Court.
But Duterte, who sits as chairman of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino- Lakas ng Bayan, clarified on Friday that he was not directing Congress but asking his party mates there to impeach Sereno.
“I am not directing Congress, I am not a member of Congress. I am directing my partymates… Who am I to direct the Senate? We are talking of impeachment. We’re not talking of conviction,” he said.
“But the ball is still in the hands of the Supreme Court. and I don’t know what’s coming her way from you,” the President added.
Sereno is battling an impeachment complaint that alleges she has undeclared wealth and betrayed public trust, among others.
The House of Representatives Committee on Justice has already found probable cause on the impeachment complaint against Sereno.
In October 2017, Duterte dared Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to resign with him, saying the two had allowed themselves to be “used” in the corruption allegations against him.
In November, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Sereno should resign to spare the judiciary from further damage after the impeachment of her predecessor, Renato Corona.
Duterte denied he was involved in ouster moves against Sereno, who was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The Congress is on break and will resume its session on May 15.
The House plenary is set to vote on the articles of impeachment drafted by its justice panel upon resumption of session.