CHIEF Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is not resigning despite a call by Malacanang for her to step down just before impeachment proceedings start.
“As previously declared, resignation has never been an option. The CJ needs to face the impeachment proceeding precisely to preserve the dignity and independence of both the Supreme Court and the Office of the Chief Justice,” lawyer Carlo Cruz, spokesman of Sereno, told The Manila Times.
Asked if Sereno was afraid of impeachment, Cruz said she was a brave woman.
“Not in the least. She is a brave woman who has a clear conscience,” Cruz said.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque, at a press conference on Monday, urged Sereno to resign to spare the Supreme Court from further damage.
“I call on Chief Justice to consider resigning to spare the institution of damage,” said Roque.
Roque issued the statement after Sereno said there was a “resurgence of political forces threatening and harassing the independence of the judiciary.”
In her keynote address at the 8th International Conference on the Training of the Judiciary, Sereno said that a good judicial system was only “as strong and independent as the belief and faith of the people in it.”
“Allow me, to remind everyone that the world has been seeing in many regions, a resurgence of political forces threatening and harassing the independence of the judiciary. We note that in troubled times in the past, kings would demand that courts would pronounce their acts as legal, not because kings did not have the physical force to impose their will because they had, but rather the kings wanted their acts to have the force of moral legitimacy,” Sereno told her audience.
“A legitimacy that many times was perceived to come from courts of law. It indicates to a certain extent that the judiciary in those parts of the world and in those times in history had a measure of credibility that politicians wanted to appropriate for whatever political purpose they deem important,” she added.
The committee on justice of the House of Representatives voted in September to send the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno before the plenary, bringing her closer to a trial in the Senate.
Gadon’s complaint accuses Sereno, the youngest person to be named chief justice, of the following:
- culpable violation of the Constitution for falsifying various documents, misdeclaring her statement of assets and liabilities and manipulating the screening of judiciary applicants at the Judicial and Bar Council;
- corruption, for using public funds to finance a “lavish lifestyle,” such as staying in posh hotels overseas and purchasing an expensive SUV as her service vehicle;
- other high crimes, for obstructing justice by instructing a Muntinlupa court not to issue a warrant of arrest against Sen. Leila de Lima on drug charges, failing to pay taxes on attorney’s fees and embellishing her credentials; and
- betrayal of public trust, for favoritism and acts usurping powers reserved to the en banc or the full Supreme Court, such the appointment of court personnel and allowing new staff to travel abroad.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd appointed Sereno, the first woman head of the judiciary, on August 25, 2012. Her retirement in 2030 makes her the longest serving Chief Justice.