Philippines’ top court ousts Duterte-critic chief justice

BanglaPress Desk
May 11, 2018

The Philippines’ top court voted on Friday to remove its chief justice, who faced ouster efforts after battling with President Rodrigo Duterte over human rights and his deadly war on drugs.

The decision against Maria Lourdes Sereno drew some 2,000 protesters to the Manila court who said it posed a grave threat to the nation’s democracy.

Sereno, the country’s first female chief justice, is one of several high-profile critics who have found themselves targeted after speaking out against the president.

“Sereno is found disqualified from and hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the chief justice,” court spokesman Theodore Te told reporters.

“The decision is immediately executory without further need of action from the court,” Te said, adding the vote was 8-6 against Sereno.

The Supreme Court case against Sereno alleged she failed to file statements of assets and liabilities in previous years — accusations she categorically denied.

Separately, Sereno is also facing an impeachment effort in the lower House of Representatives, a move which critics allege is part of a wider campaign by Duterte to destroy foes and create one-man rule.

The vote “ushers in another era of another dictatorship as the Court… puts an end to the last gasps of a dying constitutional democracy”, Senator Leila de Lima, a jailed Duterte critic, wrote in a statement.

The Philippines lived under martial law a generation ago, when dictator Ferdinand Marcos used military rule to suppress his critics.

– ‘Harassment and persecution’ –

Minutes after the decision was announced, a smiling Sereno emerged from the Supreme Court building to tell her supporters the fight was not over.

“This day is not the end, this is just the beginning,” she said, without specifying what her next move would be.

“Let us set aside our differences because there is a greater and stronger enemy that we must all face,” she told the cheering throng.Constitutional law expert Pacifico Agabin told AFP Sereno could file a motion for reconsideration but warned the move would be “an exercise in futility”.