MALACANANG called on Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to step down and spare the judiciary from further damage.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said it would be better for Sereno to resign, saying it will be damaging for the Supreme Court if its highest magistrate will be impeached for the second time.
“I call upon Chief Justice Sereno to really consider resigning if only to spare the institution from any further damage,” Roque told reporters during a press conference.
“I do not think the judiciary can survive another decision that would remove an incumbent Chief Justice,” he said, referring to the removal of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona after he his impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate that sat as an impeachment court.
“I think it is high time now for [the]Chief Justice to reexamine very carefully the effect of another removal from the institution itself. It cannot be that there will be a second instance that a sitting Chief Justice will be removed as a result of decision of the Senate. We cannot wait for that,” he added.
Roque issued the statement after Sereno said there was a “resurgence of political forces threatening and harassing the independence of the judiciary.”
But Roque said that the impeachment complaint filed against Sereno, supported by Duterte, did not, by itself undermine the judiciary since it was a process allowed by the Constitution.
“Well, an impeachment proceeding cannot be a means by which to undermine the independence of the judiciary because it’s a constitutional procedure. If at all, perhaps what will undermine the independence of the judiciary would be acts committed by judicial agents that would lead to the initiation of the impeachment proceedings,” he said.
“She has only to blame herself if she feels that the impeachment proceeding has affected the independence of the judiciary,” the Palace official added.
Asked if this was also the position of the President, Roque said, “Of course, the President wants her to be removed altogether ‘no, by all means.”
Roque, an outgoing member of the House, added that as member of the chamber’s committee on justice, he believed the allegations against the chief magistrate were supported by “convincing evidence.”
“I’ve seen the evidence because I was a member of the House Committee on Justice, I read the complaint, I read her answer, I read all the replies and I’m very bothered by the allegations which to my mind are supported not just by substantial evidence but very convincing evidence that some of the grounds may in fact be impeachable,” he said.
“The best way to protect the institution is to forego with the trial alltogether and save the institution from further damage,” Roque added.
On October 1, Duterte challenged both Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to resign with him over allegations of corruption.
Days after, the House justice committee declared that the impeachment complaint against Sereno by lawyer Larry Gadon has “sufficient grounds.”
Another complaint was filed by Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Eligio Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution.