THE biggest league of judges in the Philippines and court employees’ organizations nationwide are set to call on Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to step down from her post.
The Philippine Judges Association, the 1,000-strong group of regional trial court judges nationwide, will lead the call for Sereno to resign so as to “spare the judiciary from further humiliation.”
Also joining the call for resignation are the Supreme Court Employees’ Association (SCEA), the Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees (Scale), the Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE) and the Sandiganbayan Employees Association (SEA).
The heads of these groups are expected to join the Supreme Court’s flag ceremony today (Monday), nearly two weeks after Sereno was forced by her fellow magistrates to go on indefinite leave ahead of her looming impeachment trial in the Senate.
On Friday, the justice committee of the House of Representatives voted 38-2 to find probable cause to impeach Sereno for corruption and other high crimes, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution. The committee report will go through a plenary vote this week.
She was accused by the impeachment complainant, lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, of failing to disclose all of her finances, making illegal appointments, bypassing the Supreme Court en banc or the full court, and even undermining the appointment of former solicitor general Francis Jardeleza as associate justice.
Some associate justices, such as Jardeleza, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Diosdado Peralta testified against Sereno before the House panel.
Sereno’s qualifications to become chief justice have also been questioned by Solicitor General Jose Calida, who filed a petition for quo warranto before the Supreme Court last week.
Red vs white
The Supreme Court associate justices, trial judges and court workers are expected to hold another “Red Shirt” day today to press Sereno to quit.
Philippine Judges Association President and Marikina Judge Felix Reyes will lead the call for Sereno to tender her resignation.
He said an overwhelming majority of trial judges held the view that it was time for Sereno to quit.
The statement calling for Sereno’s resignation, obtained by The Manila Times, states: “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 pitted against each other resulting in a distressing atmosphere. This is aggravated by the fact that the Court en banc has taken cognizance of the petition for quo warranto and ordered her to file her comment thereto, instead of dismissing it outright. 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.”
“Chief Justice, let us please not allow history to judge you as the first woman Chief Justice, and the youngest at that, to be removed from office.”
Reyes told The Manila Times that Sereno’s resignation would spare the judiciary from further attacks.
He pointed out that it would be an awkward situation for the quo warranto petition to be decided by Sereno’s fellow justices, and for some of the justices to testify against Sereno in the Senate impeachment court.
“Remember that [Sereno’s] colleagues will rule [on]her case in the quo warranto petition; it will be awkward already. Once the Senate impeachment trial begins, the [justices]who became the resource persons in the House of Representatives will become witnesses already and be subjected to cross-examination. We cannot allow that to happen, that the Supreme Court justices will be grilled by the senators,” Reyes said.
The president of the judges’ association couldn’t help but compare the impeachment cases against Sereno and the late chief justice Renato Corona.
“Before, under Corona, the judiciary as a family came under attack by others such as Malacañang, the House and the Senate, which is why we, the children, defended Chief Justice Corona,” he said in Filipino.
“But now with Sereno’s looming impeachment, there is infighting inside our home. Our mothers and fathers, the justices, are fighting each other. That’s why one of them has to leave,” he added.
Sereno is expected to have her own gathering on Monday morning at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where her supporters will wear white shirts.