DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 April) — When President Rodrigo Duterte declared Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno his “enemy” on April 9, that wasn’t the first time he went ballistic against her. Exactly 20 months earlier, on August 9, 2016 in the military’s Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, Duterte warned he will “order everybody in the executive department not to honor you” and declare martial law if Sereno got in the way of his war on drugs.
On Monday, April 9, 2018, Duterte declared Sereno his “enemy” and vowed he would push for both executive and legislative ways to get her “out of the Supreme Court” because “she is bad for the Philippines.”
Duterte said he would “egg (Solicitor General Jose) Calida to do his best” and ask House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. to “fast-track” the impeachment proceedings against her.
“I’m putting you on notice that I am now your enemy. And you have to be out of the Supreme Court. I will see to it that after that then I’ll request the Congress, go into the impeachment right away. Because the two entities can hear it simultaneously. They can proceed with the quo warranto. Ang quo warranto is Supreme Court eh, impeachment is Congress,” he said before departing for the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan, China.
Duterte was asked during the press conference at the Davao International Airport on Sereno’s statement earlier that day before the Movement Against Tyranny where she asked the President to explain, if at all he did not have a hand in the moves to oust her through an “unconstitutional” process, why the Solicitor General, who reports to him, filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court questioning the validity of her appointment as Chief Justice.
“Surely you must explain to the people why this unconstitutional act?” Sereno said.
Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court Justice can be removed only through impeachment.
Sereno said Filipinos are “matalino” (intelligent) and can see who is behind the ouster moves against her.
In response, Duterte, a government prosecutor here until he was appointed OIC Vice Mayor in 1986, said: “Ikaw, Sereno (You, Sereno, I told you I don’t meddle),” adding “if you are insisting, then count me in. Count me in. And I will egg Calida to do his best. Ako na mismo maglakad rin kalaban sa iyo (I will personally move against you).
“Now sige ka diyan daldal nang daldal. O sige, upakan kita. I will help any investigator. Talagang uupakan kita,” he said.
“Sabihin mo sa kanya ngayon (tell her now), let the world know, talagang I will — makialam ako. Ako nagpapasensya lang ako babae (I will intervene. I am just being patient, woman). Now, this time I’m asking the congressmen and the Speaker: Do it now. Huwag ninyong dramahin or else I will do it for you,” the President said.
“Ngayon, makialam talaga ako (Now, I will really intervene). I am asking Congress: What’s taking you too long? Do not create any crisis in this country. I will not hesitate to do what is to the best interest of my country. If it calls for your forced removal, I will do it,” he warned.
August 2016 to April 2018
Speaking in front of soldiers in Cagayan de Oro on August 9, 2016, Duterte raised the possibility of martial law in case a constitutional crisis looms between the two equal branches of government.
Addressing Sereno, Duterte said: “I am giving you a warning. Do not create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you.”
Duterte had announced two days earlier, the names of 163 persons from the executive, legislative and judiciary who are allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade.
Duterte asked: “if this continues, you are trying to stop me. I might lose my cool or would you rather I declare Martial Law?”
Duterte’s remarks came after the Chief Justice, in an August 8 letter to the President, said she would caution the judges named by Duterte not to ‘surrender’ to the police unless warrants of arrests have been issued against them.
Of the seven judges named by Duterte, Sereno said only four were in active service, one died in January 2008, another was dismissed in 2007 for gross ignorance of law and misconduct and one retired in June 2016.
“To safeguard the role of the judges as the protector of constitutional rights, I would caution them very strongly against ‘surrendering’ or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly-issued warrant of arrest that is pending,” Sereno told Duterte.
On August 11, two days after he warned Sereno, Duterte apologized. “I apologize to the Chief Justice for the harsh words. It was never intended,” he said in a press conference in Davao City.
“But ako kasi, because of the magnitude of the problem (on illegal drugs), it was my way of solving the problem within the ambit of my powers as President,” he added.
Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te on August 12 said the Chief Justice appreciated the President’s statement and “would no longer say anything on this matter.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)