Groups to hold vigil for Sereno as SC starts summer session in Baguio

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – At least 20 civil society groups vowed to hold a vigil at the Supreme Court (SC) compound here to persuade the tribunal to junk the petition for quo warranto against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The SC will start their summer session in Baguio starting Tuesday April 3.

Some of the group leaders commuted from Manila to join in the protest vigil. The groups include Alitaptap, People’s Power Volunteers for Reform, Democratic Alliance Movement of the Philippines International, Netizens for Conscience and Bravery, Pilipinas kong Mahal, EDSA 30, UPSAMASA, Win for Freedom Movement, The Silent Majority, Bagani, Everywoman, EDSA Prodem and others mostly belonging to the Coalition for Justice.

They were joined by their colleagues from Baguio and La Trinidad, like the Baguio Prayer Movement, Guiding Light Christian Church, Movement Against Tyranny-Metro Baguio, Tongtongan ti Umili and Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Baguio Benguet (IBP-BB).

In their press forum at the University of Baguio Sarmiento Hall on Monday, April 2, the leaders called on the SC not to entertain the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, and instead give Sereno her day in the Senate impeachment court.

“The Coalition for Justice demands that judicial independence be preserved so that hope is not snuffed out,” said Mae Lagunday of CFJ.

“Chief Justice Sereno represents every Filipino seeking justice. The CFJ reminds the Supreme Court that, in every case, and especially in hers, judges should not only be impartial but also appear to be impartial or else they would voluntarily recuse themselves,” Lagunday added.

“The filing of a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court by the Office of the Solicitor General questioning her appointment as Chief Justice is a desperate attempt to prevent the impeachment trial in the Senate from happening,” said Soc Reyes of Everywoman.

“First, quo warranto has a prescription period of one year and the CJ has been in office since August 24, 2012. Second, the quo warranto will be decided by the very Associate Justices who voted for her indefinite leave with no indication that anyone will inhibit from the proceedings. And, third, the quo warranto will open the possibility that the SC will declare her position vacant,” said Reyes.

“Tongtongan ti Umili sees this as an effort to bypass the necessary impeachment proceedings to forward the Duterte administration’s political agenda while blatantly disregarding the constitutionality of impeachment processes in our state,” said Jeanette Ribaya of TTU.

“With the quo warranto plea ongoing, the role of the Senate is reduced in to a mere spectator in the monopolized politics of the current regime and the essence of 'check and balance' of the independent government branches is neglected,” added Ribaya.

Alan Mazo of IBP BB read the position paper of IBP leaders, led by national president Abdiel Fajardo, that they would challenge the quo warranto petition and file an intervention with SC to seek its dismissal.

The letter cited the IBP's duty to uphold the Constitution and its decision to join the proceedings and offer legal insights "with careful effort not to fall into the trap of providing a simplistic answer to the rather complicated question that now confronts the judiciary, the resolution of which is of transcendental importance to our democracy."

The groups decided to wear purple or pink sashes throughout their stay in Baguio. –