MANILA Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno shrugged off anew calls for her to resign from her post.
Resigning from my post as Chief Justice will only serve to erode the independence of the Supreme Court and embolden those who demand a subservient judiciary, Sereno said in a speech in front of her supporters at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City on Monday.
To do so would invite the kind of extraconstitutional adventurism that treats legal rights and procedures as mere inconveniences that should be set aside when it suits the powers that be, she added.
Sereno made the statement in response to the call of various judiciary organizations for her to step down.
In a joint statement, the Philippine Judges Association (PJA), Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA), Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees (SCALE), Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE) and the Sandiganbayan Employees Association (SEA) urged Sereno to resign to save the judiciary from disrepute that affects the honor and integrity of justices, judges, and court employees.
According to the top magistrate, she will not step down and looks forward to seeing the impeachment process reach its logical conclusion with the Senate impeachment court deciding whether to convict or acquit her of the charges hurled against her.
I will not resign. I am determined to wage till the logical end this battle started by those who seek to undermine the Constitution and the judiciary, Sereno said.
I am resolute in carrying on the good and noble fight for judicial independence. I will finish the course of this thorny race, she added.
Sereno said she was saddened that the PJA and leaders of four out of 15 court employees' unions asking for her resignation appeared to have succumbed to political pressure.
It is very sad for the institution that some judges and employees whose freedom of conscience and independence I have fought very hard to defend have succumbed to pressures to enter the political fray, Sereno said.
However, Sereno said that it was encouraging to know that the two other major judges' groups and several key organizations of court employees had resisted the pressure to join the call for her resignation.
It is also a source of hope that many individual judges, more than the number who supported the PJA statement, have refused to be used as pawns and have instead issued calls to maintain the dignity and independence of the judiciary, she added.
While admitting that resignation could be the easier option for her at this point, Sereno said she did not make choices in life on the basis of what is the easier option but what is right thing to do.
And without the slightest doubt, the right thing to do is to fight this impeachment to the end, she stressed.
The House Committee on Justice last week voted on the probable to remove Sereno and the camp of the Chief Justice wanted Congress to expedite its proceedings and transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate to commence her trial in accordance with processes provided for under the Constitution.
Any mode to remove her other than by an impeachment by the House and a conviction by the Senate would be illegal and unconstitutional, her spokespersons have warned.
Sereno noted that while the latest call for her to resign appeals to her love for the judiciary, it is also out of love for the judiciary that I must continue my course.
And I say to you: do not fear the outcome for we will emerge stronger and more highly regarded in the end. But we will not come out honorable if we abort this struggle in the middle, she said.
Sereno said that her resignation will amount to abandoning her fight for the Rule of Law and the right of every accused to be heard and to present evidence in his or her defense.
Hiningi ko po sa Mababang Kapulungan na ako'y madinig sa pamamagitan ng aking mga abogado nguni't ako'y tinanggihan, bagkus walang pakundangang yinurakan ang aking pagkatao at pangalan. Sa Senado lamang po, at hindi sa resignasyon ang aking pag-asang madinig (I'm asking the House of Representatives to let my lawyers represent me but they blatantly disregarded and disrespected my name. My only hope is in the Senate, not resignation), Sereno pointed out.
The Chief Justice maintained she will not abandon her sworn duty to defend the Constitution, judicial independence, democracy and the rule of law.
Sereno also vowed to continue the fight against all kinds of political pressure and suppression of human rights.
The impeachment complaint contains four grounds, including corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes.
In almost all of her public appearances and statements of her lawyers, Sereno had urged the House committee on justice and the House of Representatives to file the impeachment complaint against her before the Senate so she could present her evidence and have her day in court.
Aside from impeachment, a quo warranto case had been filed against Sereno before the SC by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida for her failure to submit the 10 statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALNs) required of her when she applied for the position of chief justice.
Acting on the petition, the SC, as a full court, had directed Sereno to comment in 10 days on the petition upon receipt of notice.
Earlier, Sereno's lawyers had said that Calida's quo warranto petition should be dismissed outright for lack of basis in law and in the Constitution.
Source: Philippine News Agency