MANILA— Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday urged Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign if only to spare the judiciary from further damage.
In a Palace briefing, Roque said it would be better for the Chief Justice to resign to protect the judiciary from the effect of a possible removal of its highest magistrate through impeachment for the second time.
“I call upon Chief Justice Sereno to really consider resigning if only to spare the institution from any further damage. As a senior lawyer, as a law professor, I do not think the judiciary can survive another decision that would remove an incumbent Chief Justice,” he said.
The late Chief Justice Renato Corona was ousted from office after the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, found him guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for failing to fully disclose his wealth.
Sereno is facing an impeachment case over the same issue, including allegations of mismanaging the affairs of the high court.
“I think it is high time now for Chief Justice to re-examine very careful the effect of another removal to the institution itself. It cannot be that there will be a second instance that a sitting Chief Justice will be removed as a result of decision of the Senate,” Roque said.
When asked whether his call for Sereno to resign reflects the position of President Rodrigo Duterte, Roque replied in the affirmative.
“Of course the President wants her removed all together by all means. And of course like Andy Bautista, she could spare the Court from further damage by voluntarily resigning,” he said.
Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista resigned from the poll body amid allegations of amassing unexplained wealth worth PHP1 billion.
Roque added that he is calling for Sereno’s resignation not only to spare the judiciary from damage, noting that he is personally convinced that there is merit in the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice.
“I’ve seen the evidence because I was a member of the House Committee on Justice, I read the complaint, I read her answer, I read all the reply and I’m very bothered by the allegations which, to my mind, are supported not just by substantial evidence, but very convincing evidence, that some of the grounds may in fact be impeachable,” he said.
However, Roque said that his comments should not be construed as a case of the executive branch meddling with the affairs of the judiciary.
Earlier, Sereno said there was a “resurgence of political forces threatening and harassing the independence of the judiciary.”
“I’m commenting about an impeachment proceeding and it has nothing to do with the Judiciary. It’s about the personal liability of an impeachable officer and the issue there is whether that she committed impeachable offenses,” he said.
“So, I’m not undermining the judiciary. I’m not intervening in the affairs of the judiciary. I’m asking of the Chief Justice to spare further damage to an institution by resigning,” Roque said.
And the best way to protect the institution, he said, is to forego with the impeachment trial altogether and save the institution from further damage.
“We cannot wait for that. If we were to wait for that, it is the finding of guilt that will undermine the independence of the judiciary,” Roque said.