SURROUNDED by white-clad supporters, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said she would not resign, rejecting calls by judges and court workers for her to make the “supreme sacrifice.”
Addressing a gathering at the Balay Kalinaw of the University of the Philippines Diliman on Monday morning, Sereno reiterated that efforts to unseat her threatened the independence of the judiciary.
“I will not resign…resigning from my post as the chief justice will embolden those who demand a subservient judiciary,” she said.
At the Supreme Court, justices and trial court judges, as well as court lawyers and employees, wore red to press on Sereno to quit amid her looming impeachment trial, as well as a quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General before the high tribunal questioning the chief justice’s qualification.
At the center of the parallel efforts to kick Sereno out is her supposed failure to file a complete set of statements of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALNs) required by the Judicial and Bar Council, which screens judiciary nominees.
On Monday, judges and court employees appealed to Sereno’s love for the judiciary in calling for her resignation, during the flag ceremony at the Supreme Court compound in Manila.
“The pending impeachment proceedings in recent months have put the entire judiciary in disrepute, thereby affecting the honor and integrity of its justices, judges; officials have been pitted against each other, resulting in a distressing atmosphere,” Supreme Court Employees Association President Erwin Ocson said.
But Sereno, the youngest magistrate to be appointed chief justice, told her supporters in UP her love for the judiciary compelled her to stay.
“While the call to resign appeals to my love for the judiciary, it is also out of my love for [it]that I will continue my course,” she said.
Sereno vowed to fight her accusers before the impeachment trial.
“Hangga’t ako ay may lakas, sa awa ng Diyos, lalabanan ko ito (While I have the strength, with God’s help, I will fight this),” she said,
About a hundred of Sereno’s white-clad supporters, mostly members of the multi-sector group Coalition for Justice, read manifestos urging her to continue fighting for judicial independence.
“We call on her to fulfill her mandate in truth, righteousness, and justice. Chief Justice Sereno, do not resign,” the group said.
‘Not forced to sign’
The statement calling for Sereno’s resignation was signed by the Philippine Judges Association President and Marikina Regional Trial Court Judge Felix Reyes, officials of the Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees, the Philippine Association of Court Employees and the Sandiganbayan Employees Association.
“The Court can no longer endure a prolonged environment of this kind. Its officials and personnel, truly dedicated and conscientious public servants, cannot go through another set of hearings and go against each other again in the Senate,” the statement said.
Lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon filed the impeachment complaint on August 30, pointing to Sereno’s alleged failure to file her SALNs, along with inaccuracies in tax declarations and unauthorized expenses and appointments.
Last week, the House justice committee also found probable cause to impeach the chief justice, voting 38-2.
Nine associate justices joined the flag ceremony: Noel Tijam, Samuel Martires, Francis Jardeleza, Mariano del Castillo, Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, Teresita de Castro, Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Antonio Carpio.
Ocson said there was no truth to newspaper reports that they were forced to sign the manifesto calling for Sereno to resign.
Reyes, the Marikina judge, told The Manila Times it was time for Sereno to “let go” and save the judiciary from humiliation.
“Ang away ay sa loob ng bahay (The fight is in the home). If the difference between the husband and wife is irreconcilable, the best is to part ways. Sereno should resign,” Reyes said.
with JOMAR CANLAS