By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
After previously denying that he had anything to do with the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, President Duterte all but admitted his hand in the effort to unseat the chief magistrate who, he said, is “bad for the Philippines.”
Duterte finally bared his fangs at Sereno when the latter, in her speaking engagements while on leave, insinuated the President’s unseen hand in the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor Gen. Jose Calida before the Supreme Court questioning her appointment.
This came after the lawyer who filed the impeachment complaint with the House of Representatives, Lorenzo Gadon, was seen hobnobbing with Duterte’s retinue during an event in Oriental Mindoro. Gadon himself denied knowing the President personally.
Duterte addressed himself to Sereno: “You talk too much, now I will hit you. I am putting you on notice that I am your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court.”
Duterte made the remarks at a news conference in Davao City before flying to China, visibly irked after Sereno earlier said the President should “explain” why he allowed Calida to question her appointment before the Supreme Court.
“I will see to it, and after that I will request Congress, (to) go into the impeachment (case) right away. The two entities can hear it simultaneously.
(The Supreme Court) can proceed with the quo warranto (petition),” Duterte told reporters.
“I would ask Speaker Alvarez now, kindly fast-track the impeachment. She is bad for the Philippines,” Duterte said.
Progressive lawmakers were quick to denounce Duterte’s outburst. Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said Duterte’s order may just be a “smokescreen” for Sereno’s pending removal through the quo warranto proceedings.
“Some information is now being floated that majority of the Supreme Court justices might give due course and remove Sereno via the quo warranto proceeding,” Zarate said. “We are calling on the Filipino people to stand up for what is right and just, and guard against unwarranted developments in the quo warranto and the impeachment proceedings,” he added.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin decried how Duterte plays god and imposes his whims upon Congress, which is a co-equal branch of government. “It is ironic that President Duterte flies off to China which has occupied our islands in the West Philippine Sea, thus, becoming our enemy while declaring that Chief Justice Sereno as his enemy,” Villarin said.
“As a lawyer, the President should know better than (to) burst in a fit of rage.
If he has no hand in filing the petition, the President should let Sol. Gen. Calida do the explaining in the proper forum,” he said.
The House committee on justice has already found probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Sereno. Sereno supposedly failed to submit a complete set of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth as required by the Judicial and Bar Council, which screens judiciary appointees. She is also accused of manipulating the screening process for court appointees, including undermining the appointment of Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza.
The House justice panel is drafting the articles of impeachment against the chief justice, which will be submitted to the plenary for approval. If approved, the articles of impeachment will be submitted to the Senate, which will sit as an impeachment court, to try Sereno.
Before Congress adjourned its session on March 21, the House Committee on Rules has referred for plenary consideration the committee report and articles of impeachment against Sereno.
Sereno was appointed chief justice by Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, in 2012 after the impeachment trial that unseated the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.