With Sereno ouster, SC committed ‘hara kiri’ on judiciary’s independence – lawmakers

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers decried the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying the Supreme Court (SC) did a “bludgeoning” of the independence of the judiciary. 

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman even used the Japanese term “hara kiri” to condemn the SC voting 8-6 to grant the quo warranto petition that led to Sereno’s ouster on Friday, May 11. (READ: After ouster as CJ, Sereno says ‘the fight has just started’)

“The majority of the Supreme Court committed hara kiri with its bludgeoning the independence of the judiciary and desecrating the sanctity of the Constitution by ousting Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in an improvident quo warranto proceeding,” said Lagman.

Hara kiri, according to Merriam-Wesbter, means the ritual suicide by disembowelment practiced by the Japanese samurai to substitute for the the death penalty.  

Lagman said the SC has “no jurisdiction” to remove the Chief Justice in a quo warranto action, because the 1987 Constitution only mandates her removal through impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate. 

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin described the day of Sereno’s removal from office as a “sad day for democracy and the independence of the judiciary.” (READ: Senators on Sereno ouster: ‘Black day for justice’)

“Ousting a duly appointed Chief Justice without impeachment has dealt a fatal blow to what remains of the checks-and-balances in our already embattled democracy under President Rodrigo Duterte,” said Villarin.

He said the SC ruling allegedly “affirms” President Rodrigo Duterte’s resolve to crush his opponents in all branches of government. 

“The Punisher has forcefully turned our justices into witnesses and judges in a kangaroo court. He sends a clear threat with no veil: No one can stand on his way, especially smart, strong, and principled women,” said Villarin. 

“This comes with a chilling effect not only for the political opposition but also for members of judiciary, who now sit with no security given this dangerous precedent. But Akbayan will not be cowed by such threats. We will continue to fight for the rule of law, firmly against the rule of one strongman,” he added. 

Back to Marcosian era?

Progressive lawmakers from the Makabayan block said the ouster of Sereno shows the SC now is reminiscent of the High Court that had ushered in the Marcos dictatorship decades ago. 

“Similar to the role the Supreme Court played in ushering in the Marcos dictatorship, the Supreme Court has, once again, proven how it serves to protect the interest of whoever is in power,” said Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago.

She said Kabataan “strongly condemns” the SC’s alleged attempt of “distorting well-established legal principles” and in playing a role in the “official installation of a strong, one-man rule.” (READ: [OPINION] Marcos and Duterte: Strongmen’s changing playbook)

“We hold the justices of the Supreme Court, and all of Duterte’s cohorts in a rotten and disintegrating political gamefield, liable for the sanctioning of another Marcosian era,” added Elago. 

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate shared the same sentiments. 

"The SC justices who voted to oust CJ Sereno have also voted to surrender its institutional power to tyrrany and now openly exposing its illusory independent position," he said.

Zarate, however, believes the the blame is not on SC alone.

"From the executive, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court – all have conspired to abandon the pursuit of the rule of justice. What is happening now is a glaring example of the faults, disadvantages and fallacies of a government run by the elite,” he added.  

The House justice committee already approved the articles of impeachment against Sereno on March 8 after holding months of hearings.  

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said they will first wait for the SC’s decision on the motion for reconsideration Sereno plans to file before voting on the articles of impeachment at the plenary. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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