Sereno slams silent Duterte critics as enablers

MANILA, Philippines – In a bold speech that accused President Rodrigo Duterte of killing the Philippine Constitution, former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno slammed the silent critics as enablers of what she called an anti-reason and anti-science government.

"Some sectors refuse to confront the president for his misdirection of the country, while they privately object to this president's attack against reason, science and God, they mistakenly believe that appeasing him will make him reasonable, science-respecting and open to notions of God and the good," Sereno said on Friday, February 21, during a forum on Lawfare held at the De La Salle University in Manila.

Lawfare, a portmanteau of "law" and "warfare," refers to the misuse of laws and legal systems to go after perceived enemies.

Sereno was ousted in 2018 in an unprecedented quo warranto move by Solicitor General Jose Calida, upheld by the Supreme Court in a narrow 8-6 vote. A dissenting justice called the ouster using a quo warranto process as "a legal abomination."

Sereno said the critics who refuse to speak up are just enabling Duterte.

"Since he apparently rejects the humane treatment of criminal suspects, dissenters and the poor, and since his government actively exploits the law to promote injustice, then by refusing to tax him on his sworn duty to promote justice, these sectors abet the continued desecration and demolition of institutions of justice and accountability," said Sereno who has been out of the public eye for some months now.

Constitution as 'casualty' 

Sereno did not mince words in her speech and said Duterte killed the Philippine Constitution, citing the deaths in the war on drugs, the so-called weaponization of laws against dissenters, and the president's attacks on faith.

"The attack on reason, science and God by the president has eroded the basis of our unity...The second casualty is the Constitution, together with its protective structures, checks and balances, the bill of rights, and due process," said Sereno.

Sereno slammed the Duterte government for what she said were anti-science policies, citing as examples "his handling of the Taal Volcano crisis, the delayed reaction to the coronavirus epidemic."

"People must express their objection to the President's penchant for crafting policies unilaterally, seeking neither their approval nor their consent," said Sereno.

Sereno added: "His approval rating does not grant him the authority to turn over our country to China nor to the enemies of good governance."

A vocal chief justice

As chief justice, Sereno was as vocal as a justice can be.

She stood against the publication of a list of alleged narco-judges, spoke out against the martial law in Mindanao, and created a judiciary committee that would study how the courts can more proactively respond to human rights violations.

Sereno was touted for a while to be among the opposition's senatorial candidates, although eventually she did not run for office.

In the lead-up to the campaign period, Sereno delivered a speech at an assembly of Tindig Pilipinas calling on all quarters of the opposition to unite.

There was no united opposition during the 2019 midterm elections. And no one from the opposition also won a Senate seat. – 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.

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