Top Philippines court ousts its own chief justice

PH Supreme Court ousts chief justice

SENATE President Aquilino Pimentel III urged the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday to review its decision to remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, in an assertion of the Senate's authority as "the one and only impeachment court".

By a vote of 8-6, the court granted the government's petition to cancel Sereno's appointment on the grounds that she failed to disclose information pertaining to her financial earnings when she was appointed in 2010.

Police say about 1,800 protesters gathered by midmorning to help Sereno exterior the court docket in Manila the place anti-riot policemen blocked an entry street with vans and iron railings to keep up order.

The justices who voted to remove her seized "the sole responsibility of the Senate, brazenly violated their sworn responsibility to protect the constitution and destroyed the judiciary", the 57-year-old former law professor said.

Separately, Sereno is also facing an impeachment effort in the lower House of Representatives, a move which critics allege is part of Duterte's power-grab plan.

Pangilinan, who heads the opposition Liberal Party, says "what the majority in the Supreme Court did was a mockery of the constitution". "The present dispensation has practically crippled all the democratic institutions that supposedly ensure checks and balances within the government".

"This special class of public officials - comprising of the President, Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman - may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust", the Constitution states.

It was also the first time in the history of the Philippines' High Tribunal that a chief justice was removed through a quo warranto plea.

Sereno's supporters argued that the submission of an applicant's SALNs is not absolute requirement since it is not mentioned in the 1987 Constitution as qualification for a member of the Supreme Court. Pangilinan also said Sereno should appeal the decision.

Other justices who voted to grant the petition were Associate Justices Teresita L. De Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, Noel G. Tijam, Andres B. Reyes, Jr., and Alexander G. Gesmundo.

"The people should express to the court that the decision was wrong and unacceptable". Let the trial in the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, begin.

Once an independent judicial leader like Sereno, who acts as checks and balances to the executive branch of government, is ousted, "there will be no more balance of power. And you have to be out of the Supreme Court", Duterte said in a speech last month, in which he said he requested lawmakers to "go into the impeachment right away"'. "So she's ousted as chief justice because that's her only position".

Worldwide rights groups and local critics have accused Duterte of drifting toward authoritarianism after declaring martial law in the south amid a major attack by pro-Daesh militants past year.

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