Sereno says democracy under threat; House leaders think otherwise

MANILA -- Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday said the impeachment proceedings against her involve not just herself, but also the democracy in the country.

In a television interview, Sereno said the ongoing ouster bid against her, which she said was based on fabricated charges, is not only an attack on her, but also against justices and ordinary citizens who could possibly face the prospect of being denied of their democratic and constitutional rights.

[The impeachment proceeding] is getting to be larger than myself. This is no longer just about me. It is about our democracy, Sereno said.

If she gets impeached, Sereno said anyone in the country could be accused based on manufactured charges and be deprived of his or her basic constitutional rights.

If they can do this to the Chief Justice -- fabricate charges --I'm not saying that, but some say -- if they can do this to the Chief Justice and deny her of her basic constitutional rights, who is safe in this country? Sereno said.

If a Chief Justice, who can be accused of these allegations which are even false, will be removed from office, is there any judge or justice in this country who is safe? Is the judiciary safe? And if the judiciary is not safe, is democracy safe? she added.

Sereno said the only way to assure the constitutional rights of the people is by having a "virtuous and independent judiciary."

She said it was not right to place the burden of proof on her because nothing yet has been proven in all 27 allegations listed in the complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.

I'm ready in any proceeding to prove my innocence. What is happening is actually wrong already because all the onus is being given to me, Sereno said.

Gadon's complaint contains four grounds for impeachment including culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.

For Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, he believes that the impeachment proceeding is a constitutional process accorded in the Constitution.

He said it is the House's constitutional mandate to process all the verified impeachment complaints filed before it.

"E talagang may nagreklamo anong gagawin natin? Kailangan ba sabihin namin ay hindi pwede kasi wala ng safe dyan? (There is a complaint so what will we do? Do we have to say it isn't allowed because nobody is safe?) ,"Alvarez said.

Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia said the impeachment proceeding against the Chief Justice is "democracy in action" as it guarantees accountability from the highest leaders of the land.

"This is precisely democracy in action. It proves any public official, whether you are appointed or elected, has accountability to the people," Garcia said.

Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin also assured the public that the impeachment process is an exercise of the democratic processes and consistent with the rules of the 17th Congress.

Source: Philippine News Agency