THE Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches on Wednesday threw its support behind Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is facing two impeachment complaints in Congress, saying “impeachment endangers the foundations of our nation’s democratic institutions.”
In a statement signed by Bishop Noel Pantoja, the council said the impeachment complaints were lamentable as Sereno possessed “professional excellence and moral uprightness,” and “who above all else is a true follower of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“PCEC endorsed her appointment as Chief Justice without any reservation back in 2012 because we believed she will defend with fairness and justice the Rule of Law and effectuate genuine reform in our country’s judicial system. We have no reason not to believe it now,” the statement said.
“Since her appointment, Chief Justice Sereno has led within the bounds of her office in calling for and working toward bringing about an independent judiciary, greater accountability of government officers, stronger protection of human rights, and tougher fight against the culture of impunity,” it added.
The evangelical churches called on President Rodrigo Duterte to recognize Sereno as “a valuable ally in his fight against all forms of corruption and injustice,” and on lawmakers “to see her as a staunch co-protector of the Constitution and a virtuous co-partner in policy making.”
“We call on members of the judicial branch to stand firmly with her in advancing the Rule of Law. We call on all men and women of goodwill to pray for truth and justice to prevail in the impeachment proceedings, and with Chief Justice Sereno, to be vigilant in guarding peacefully our nation’s democracy and civil liberties,” the statement said.
An impeachment complaint by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, accusing Sereno of manipulating the Judicial and Bar Council and of using public funds to finance a lavish lifestyle – such as her purchase of a bulletproof Toyota Land Cruiser – was endorsed by 25 members of the House of Representatives last week.
On Monday, 16 lawmakers endorsed a separate impeachment complaint by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, wherein Sereno was accused of undermining the Supreme Court en banc, or the full court, in various court appointment and the approval of travel perks.
Robredo, IBP warn vs impeachment
On Wednesday, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo warned that the rampant filing of impeachment cases against government officials, notably Sereno and Commission on Elections Chairman Juan Andres Bautista, would not be good for the country.
“If we look at the Constitution, this (impeachment) is the last resort for officials who sinned and violated our Constitution. If it will always be on the table, not only against Sereno, it dilutes the intention of the Constitution,” Robredo told reporters at the sidelines of her “Angat Buhay” outreach activity and job fair in Pasay City.
Aside from Sereno, Bautista is facing an impeachment complaint for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over his alleged P1 billion worth of ill-gotten wealth, exposed by his estranged wife Patricia last month.
“We have witnessed impeachment proceedings, and this will hurt not only the accused, but the country as well because all branches of the government will be in a standstill, deviating from the usual daily work grind because everyone is focused on the impeachment,” Robredo said.
Former president Joseph Estrada was impeached by the House and tried in the Senate in 2000, but was ousted by a military-backed uprising in January 2001 amid allegations of corruption and profiteering from jueteng or the illegal numbers game.
Former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was impeached in 2011 over her supposed refusal to prosecute allies of former president Gloria Arroyo. Gutierrez, however, resigned before her impeachment trial in the Senate.
The late chief justice Renato Corona was impeached in December 2011. In May 2012, Corona was convicted in the Senate of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for alleged non-declaration of assets.
The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has declined to release the result of the psychiatric testing of Sereno, The Manila Times has learned.
This was in response to the request of Lorenzo Gadon, who lodged the first impeachment complaint against Sereno.
In a two-page letter to Gadon, dated August 22, the JBC said it could not release the document because of a confidentiality rule.
The letter was signed by Annaliza Ty-Capacite, JBC executive officer and was noted by Jose Mejia, acting executive committee chairman and JBC regular member.
In 2012, The Manila Times broke the story that Sereno flunked her psychiatric test when she applied for chief justice, but still managed to get the appointment from President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
with JOMAR CANLAS