Sereno hints at opposition to Charter Change

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno hinted at her opposition to Charter Change (Cha-Cha), along with specifically proposed amendments that would affect the functions of the judiciary and constitutional bodies.

“The Constitution in a sense is quite substantial in this area and we do not have to reinvent the wheel,” Sereno said in her speech at a women's month forum held in St Scholastica’s College in Manila on Wednesday, March 7.

Sereno was talking about the Constitutional Fiscal Autonomy Group (CFAG), of which the judiciary is a member, along with the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Commission on Audit (COA), the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). 

“If the CFAG agencies are fully functional, we have the blueprint for a working democracy,” Sereno said.

Cha-Cha proposals at a House subcommittee include clipping the judiciary’s powers to check on the executive branch, and abolishing the Office of the Ombudsman.

There are also proposals to relegate functions of the Comelec to either the Department of Justice (DOJ) or to the courts. A subcommittee is proposing that CHR probe even violations of non-governmental parties.

Sereno said the CFAG should just be supported so it can remain independent and fiscally autonomous. In an earlier speech, Sereno called on the CFAG to fulfill its mandates in investigating extrajudicial killings.

Sereno’s stance is similar to that of former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. For Davide, the problems of the system will be solved if the 1987 Constitution is effectively implemented.

Sereno said the same: “Eventually, as our people get exposed to understanding the Constitution, they will internalize the painstaking steps that must be taken to truly build a nation.”

Sereno also warned against hasty actions that do not appear to abide by the Constitution.

“The time will come when our people will realize that impromptu, extemporized, unprepared, unthought out plans of action, that run contrary to the structured way the Constitution designed accountability harms our nation’s long-term future,” said Sereno, who is on an indefinite leave from the Supreme Court.

With her speech on Wednesday Sereno continued her streak of speaking out against the policies of the Duterte administration. 

She has done so on martial law and the war on drugs.

Sereno faces imminent impeachment at the House, and fights this battle alongside an intensifying opposition against her in her own Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the SC en banc asked Sereno to comment on a quo warranto petition seeking to remove her from her post, a move described by some legal experts as extra-constitutional. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

image