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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, May 12, 2018
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‘Judiciary’s darkest day’
Sereno ouster sets a very dangerous precedent: IBP
BY CARLA P. GOMEZ

 

Religious groups gathered in prayer against what they called the unconstitutional ouster of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, lawyers warned that a dangerous precedent had been set, while militants called on the people to resist “rising tyranny” under the Duterte regime, in Bacolod City yesterday.

This came after the Supreme Court voted 8-6 to grant the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida seeking to nullify the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon led a prayer gathering in front of the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City, while other groups also converged in prayer in front of the Bacolod Hall of Justice last night.

Bayan Negros also staged a protest in front of the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod City yesterday afternoon.

Buzon said it “It is so pathetic that the Supreme Court, supposed to be the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution, could not see that their ouster of CJ Sereno was flagrantly unconstitutional, all because of their internal squabbles and the pettiness of some judges.”

He said “What is even more sad is that by their decision they have allowed themselves to become ready minions of an administration that cannot tolerate any opposition, whether individual or institutional, that stands in the way to its pursuit of absolute power and control.”

SC – A VICTIM

Buzon, who led the prayer gathering to uphold and preserve justice in the country attended by about 200, said “This is not so much about the chief justice, it is about the institution that is the Supreme Court that has again become one of the victims of this very clear move of an administration that is trying to do away with any opposition that stands in its way.”

It is like a creeping dictatorship in the offing, he said.

He said he is very happy that there are groups that are now standing up against the threat of federalism and was surprised that a recent survey showed that about two-thirds of the population are against it.

The citizenry should continue to stay vigilant and express their views in defense of the Constitution, he said.

“We fought very hard for the freedom we now enjoy,” Buzon said, in stressing the need to say “never again” to dictatorship and totalitarianism.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said he was sad, angry, disappointed, challenged.

“The very institution meant to uphold the Constitution has violated it. Our judiciary has crumbled, totally lost its credibility, its sense of decency, has fallen in disgrace,” Alminaza said.

BLACKEST DAY

Arnel Lapore, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Negros Occidental, said the SC ruling “is unprecedented...it might create a very, very bad precedent in succeeding cases, especially for officials who can only be removed through impeachment process, ” he said.

“I hope the decision will not create further divisiveness in our judicial system, our political system and nation, in the midst of the numerous problems we are facing today,” Lapore said.

Lapore said he was disappointed with the ruling, but ”We will respect the decision of the Supreme Court as members of the bar and the IBP”.

Many lawyers in Negros Occidental were surprised that the solicitor general filed a quo warranto petition when an impeachment complaint had already been lodged against Sereno, he said.

What is sad is it is the chief justice’s own colleagues who ousted her, he added.

Despite calls for five justices to inhibit themselves since they had sat as witnesses against Sereno in the impeachment trial, Lapore noted they took part in the vote to oust the chief justice.

Those who voted to grant the quo warranto petition against Sereno were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, and Noel Tijam who penned the Court's decision.

Those who dissented were Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

This is the blackest day in the Philippine judiciary, Archie Baribar, former Bacolod councilor and human rights lawyer, said.

“Now all lawyers of goodwill wrestle with the question – shall I keep my lawyer’s certificate or shall I return it? If injustice is done to the chief justice, should an ordinary mortal expect it for his cause? Should we not have impeachment for the eight who willfully violated the Constitution?” Baribar asked.

AT HALL OF JUSTICE

Protestants and members of other groups also again gathered in front of the Bacolod Hall of Justice last night to pray for the nation now in unchartered waters amidst a looming constitutional crisis, Dr. Violeta Gonzaga, one of the organizers, said.

They also prayed for truth and justice to be restored, for wisdom for Sereno, and for God to protect and guide her, for the country’s senators to stand up for the rule of law and for the elections on Monday, she said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel said the SC should review its decision and give Sereno the opportunity to file a motion for reconsideration.

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS

Former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela said the “The Constitution has been violated, the rule of law set aside, and the Senate's mandate as impeachment court rendered inutile.”

He said “We are seeing a Constitutional crisis unfold before our eyes, and the entire world is witness to the slow death of our fragile democracy. People must speak out. We need to find ways to restore sanity in our country, or become a basket case once more. May God have mercy on us.”

DARK TIMES

A small group of militants carrying placards that said “Stand by CJ Sereno” and “Fight Tyranny” joined a Bayan Negros protest in front of the Fountain of Justice yesterday afternoon.

Michael de la Concepcion, Bayan Negros secretary general, said that, with the SC ruling on Sereno, “Another nail was driven in the coffin of democracy today.”

“It signals another serious regression in the system of checks and balance in the country,” he said.

“It is an act of tyranny that empowers the executive, while further undermining whatever is left of the separation of powers of the three co-equal branches of government,” he added.

“Constitutional safeguards have been demolished in favor of those who already wield tremendous power,” Concepcion said.

“The Supreme Court exposed itself as a willing tool in undermining judicial independence because they had an axe to grind against the chief justice,” Concepcion said.

He called on the people to stand up and resist the rising tyranny of the Duterte regime in these “dark times.”

ALSO FOR BONGBONG?

The Partido Manggagawa asked if it will be the same majority in the Supreme Court that will ensure the victory of Bongbong Marcos as vice president before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.*CPG

 

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