Sereno rallies Filipinos to fight Duterte’s ‘dictatorial’ rule

MANILA, Philippines – Ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday, May 17, called for a movement to oppose what she called dictatorial policies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Kung ayaw niya ng dissent, bigyan siya ng dissent. Kung ayaw niya ng boses ng tao, bigyan siya ng boses ng tao. The only way to fight a bully is to resist,” Sereno said in her strongest speech yet at a forum held at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Thursday, May 17. 

(If he doesn't want dissent, let's give him dissent. If he does't want the voice of the people, let's give him the voice of the people. The only way to fight a bully is to resist.)

Sereno gave an impassioned rundown of events which, she said, bear the traces of strongman rule under the Marcos era.

“Sabi mo nagbabanta ang diktadura. I’ll give you an alternative theory, hindi kaya nandito na? Kailangan pa ba nating maghintay ng Proclamation Number 123 para maliwanagan na baka nga naman nandito na ang diktadurya,” Sereno said.

(You say there is a threat of dictatorship, I'll give you an alternative theory: could it be here already? Do we need to wait for Proclamation 123 for us to see that a dictatorship is here?)

Martial law fears

Sereno said that Duterte’s remarks about shooting female rebel fighters in their vaginas inflict a kind of fear that was known only to the generation who lived during Marcos' Martial Law.

“Yung pambubusabos, yung murahin ka on national television, hindi ba tayo nanginginig, parang inalipusta ang ating pagkatao?” Sereno said.

(When he disparages you, curses you on national television, doesn’t that make our blood boil that he’s insulting our person?)

The ousted chief justice said the Duterte administration has also enabled a toxic social media atmosphere, where critics are continuously harassed by trolls.

“Hindi po ba na kapag sinundan ka ng trolls at sabihing ma-rape sana kayo, yung anak mo babantayan namin, alam namin kung saan sila nag-aaral, hindi po ba yun din ang takot na naramdaman namin nung Dekada 70?” Sereno said.

(If trolls follow you and tell you they wish you are raped, or if they threaten to follow your children and tell you they know where they are studying, doesn't that remind you of the fear we felt during the 70s?) 

Sereno also uncharacteristically discussed a pending petition before the Supreme Court – the opposition against the closing down of Boracay.

“‘Yung ibang negosyo 100% compliance, walang kasalanan ang mga tao, 36,000 nawalan ng trabaho, saan sila ngayon tatakbo? Sabi po sa akin ng isang huwes, 'Chief ikaw kasi, wala ka na, takot na takot kami.' Takot kami, mula sa mga huwes, takot kami!” Sereno said.

(The businesses have 100% compliance, the 36,000 people who lost their jobs did not do anything wrong, but who can they run to now? One judge told me, "Chief, we're scared, and you're no longer here, we're very scared." Judges said they are scared.)

Strong speech

Sereno was not reading from a paper when she delivered her speech that lasted more than 25 minutes. It was her strongest speech thus far against Duterte, even daring him to resign over the President’s alleged involvement in her unprecedented ouster.

Sereno also said that Duterte’s warming relations with Superpower China – that is continuing its massive construction over Philippine territories – could become grounds for impeachment.

“Hindi na ho tama ang nangyayari, tinuruan niyo ang taong bayan na magmura…Nasaan na po tayo ngayon? Tinuro niyo po sa aming magkaroon ng poot sa aming mga kaaway, at hindi lang poot na ordinaryong poot, kundi ang poot na may kasamang maligno. Ano na po ang nangyari sa ating moralidad ngayon?” Sereno said.

(What's happening is wrong, you taught the Filipino people how to curse. Where are we now? You taught us to hate our enemies, and it's not just ordinary anger, but a kind of anger with demons. What has happened to our morality?)

 Sereno said the “operational realities on the ground” would prove dictatorial rule, and even went as far as saying it is motivated by money.

“Pera-pera lang pala. Yun rin lang naman pala. Dahil doon, wawasakin ang Konstitusyon, ang pananalig natin sa mga taong dapat ay tumitindig, pero ayaw tumindig, at ang tiwala natin sa kabutihan ng Pilipino,” Sereno said.

(This is all just about money. In the end, it was just about that. Because of that, they're destroying our Constitution, they're shattering our belief in people who are supposed to stand up for us but who refuse to, they shattering our faith in the goodness of the Filipino.)

She closed her speech with strong words: “Tama na, lalaban po tayo (Enough, we will fight)!"

Asked later in the forum if she was encouraging mass protests or this generation’s people power, Sereno was cautious: “Ang pamumuno po sa isang kilusan na makaka-abanse sa demokrasya ay kailangang galing sa isang consensus ng taong bayan."

(The leadership of a movement that can advance democracy should come from the consensus of the people.)

Sereno added: “Kung kailangan ng boses ng taong bayan upang ipaglaban ang karapatan ng bawat Pilipinong maging malaya, kapag ang pinag-uusapan ang hustisya at accountability, ang pagtutuos, ang boses ko ay naririto.”

(But if the people need a voice to fight for the people's right to be free, if we are talking about justice and accountability, I'm lending my voice.)

Sereno skirted the question of whether or not she was considering a Senate run, saying that she will pray for it. – 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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