MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The ousted Philippine chief justice on Wednesday appealed for the reversal of her unprecedented expulsion by fellow Supreme Court judges and warned it could lead to the destruction of judicial independence.
Maria Lourdes Sereno said the 8-6 vote that ousted her from the Supreme Court on May 11 should be reversed, citing a constitutional principle that top judiciary officials can only be removed by congressional impeachment.
She said the path taken by the majority of the court to remove her “by any means can lead only to the destruction of judicial independence and separation of powers.”
The vote was on a petition filed by the government solicitor-general that accused Sereno of failing to file her asset disclosures as a state university law professor years ago, a charge she denies. It pre-empted impeachment proceedings against Sereno that were then underway in Congress.
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Sereno is a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, who publicly called for her removal from the 15-member tribunal but denies he had a direct hand in her ouster.
More than half of the 23-member Senate has asked the Supreme Court to review its decision to oust Sereno, calling the ruling a “dangerous precedent” that infringed on the constitutional power of Congress to impeach senior officials.
At least 14 senators signed the resolution, including eight who are allies of Duterte. They are led by then Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who has said Sereno can only be removed through congressional impeachment.
Critics have warned of a constitutional crisis if the legislature, specifically the Senate, insists that it has the sole constitutional power to remove Sereno.
Sereno argued in her 205-page appeal to the Supreme Court that her right to due process was violated when six fellow justices, who have testified against her in the House of Representatives impeachment hearings, refused to recuse themselves from the case filed against her in the court “despite their extreme bias” against her.
“This is essentially a plea to the honorable court to do what is right and just,” Sereno said. “And the right and just thing to do, as dictated by the respondent’s fundamental right to due process, is to disqualify the six honorable justices who had lost the impartiality to hear and decide this case.”