U.S. NEWS organizations have carried the news about the ouster of Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The NEW YORK TIMES reported to its global readers: “The Philippines’ highest court on Friday forced out its chief justice, removing a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his brutal war against drugs, which has left thousands dead.
Voting 8-6, the Supreme Court justices removed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, approving a petition filed by the government’s lawyer that questioned the validity of her appointment on the ground that she had failed to fully disclose her wealth.
“Ms. Sereno has been a constant irritant to the increasingly autocratic rule of Mr. Duterte, questioning the validity of his list of public officials deemed to be drug suspects and opposing his declaration of martial law in the southern Philippines.”
FOX NEWS published this:
“The Philippine Supreme Court spokesman says Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has been ousted in a vote by fellow judges acting on a government petition, which sought her removal in a move she calls unconstitutional.
“Court spokesman Theodore Te says eight of 14 justices voted Friday to remove Sereno from the 15-member tribunal for allegedly failing to file statements of assets and liabilities as required by law. Sereno denies the allegation and did not participate in the vote.
“Hundreds of protesters denouncing Sereno’s ouster rallied outside the court.
”Sereno has been at loggerheads with President Rodrigo Duterte and has urged Filipinos to stand up to his authoritarian rule. She also has been speaking up for the respect of law and human rights, irking Duterte at a time he has led a brutal crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of suspects dead.”
BLOOMBERG reported the ouster this way:
“Philippines Supreme Court justices voted 8-6 to nullify the appointment of Maria Lourdes Sereno, an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. At a televised briefing, court spokesman Theodore Te read the decision that declared Sereno ’guilty of unlawfully holding’ the position.
“Duterte last month called Sereno his ’enemy,’ and pledged to oust the judge who has spoken out against his deadly drug war and decision to put southern parts of the Philippines under military rule. Her removal makes the Supreme Court more vulnerable to pressure from other branches of government, according to Professor Dante Gatmaytan of the University of the Philippines College of Law.
“’Every time the Supreme Court plays politics, it sacrifices its integrity and its status is diminished,’” he said.”
The WASHINGTON POST has also been following this development and published this update:
“Former Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has held her first news conference since being ousted, and has urged Filipinos to help defend the constitution in a sign she’s ready to take to the front lines in advocating change.
“Sereno said late Friday: ’Staying quiet is tantamount to being an accomplice to their abuses.’ Although she did not mention President Rodrigo Duterte by name, she alluded to many issues under his leadership, including extrajudicial killings, which have been raised by rights activists and critics.
“’I am a victim today, but I am just one of so many thousands upon thousands whose lives have been snuffed out, who continue to remain in detention, who have been unfairly accused or unfairly victimized by the very powerful forces in our society that must be exposed for what they are,’ Sereno said.
“She said she wants to talk to common people, including the youth, about injustice and the urgency of fighting for what is right. ’For the longest time, we have not had a national conversation,’ she said.”
The ASSOCIATED PRESS gave platform to the response of opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan, who said the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is a mockery of the constitution and that Congress should insist on its exclusive constitutional role to remove key officials like her through impeachment.
“’Pangilinan, who heads the opposition Liberal Party, says ’what the majority in the Supreme Court did was a mockery of the constitution.’ He says ’the people should express to the court that the decision was wrong and unacceptable.’ He also says Sereno should appeal.
“Aside from a government petition to declare Sereno ineligible to lead the Supreme Court over her alleged failure to declare her wealth before she became chief justice, she also faced an impeachment complaint in the House of Representatives. She says she was ready to defend herself if the impeachment case reached the Senate for trial.
“But the impeachment process has now been pre-empted by the unprecedented vote Friday to remove her from the Supreme Court, sparking legal confusion over what would happen to the votes she cast on cases in the years she led the country’s highest court.’”
REUTERS reported on the statement of “One opposition party said the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno, the country’s first woman chief justice, removed a shield against abuse of power in government and left behind a ’puppet Supreme Court.’”
“Senator Risa Hontiveros called it ’a direct stab to the heart of our Constitution’, while her Akbayan party said the country was ’a heartbeat away’ from the death of its democracy.
“‘After having a lapdog Congress and a seriously wounded Senate, we now have a puppet Supreme Court,’ the party said in a statement.
“Duterte has made no secret of his dislike of Sereno.
”She voted against several of his proposals, such as extending martial law on a restive island and allowing late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in a cemetery for national heroes.
“In October last year, Duterte dared Sereno to open her bank account to public scrutiny, accusing her of corruption and of being used by his political opponents.
“Friday’s decision came before Congress, controlled by Duterte’s allies, returns from its Easter break next week to vote on an impeachment complaint against Sereno.”
Do you approve and support this ouster of CJ Sereno?
* * *
Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos