MANILA – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines in a statement on Friday appealed for “due process” amid the mounting impeachment campaign against Chief Justice-on-leave Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno.
Earlier, lawyer Oliver O. Lozano asked the Supreme Court in a petition on Thursday to void Ms. Sereno’s appointment in 2012 “for non-compliance with mandatory legal requirements.”
In its statement, the IBP said it welcomed Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio’s “assumption as Acting Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines,” adding that Mr. Carpio “has distinguished himself as a highly capable and fiercely independent jurist.”
“There are no better hands to take the baton of leadership in the meantime that we wait for evidence to be presented or controverted in the impending trial of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno,” said the country’s mandatory bar organization.
But the IBP also noted: “Security of tenure is the bedrock of judicial independence. It is intended to shield judges from the political elements that may have played a role in their appointment to the bench. The Supreme Court itself has repeatedly emphasized our Constitution’s built-in bias towards a fearless and an incorruptible judiciary that is prepared to follow the law and to administer it regardless of consequences.”
“We breathe life into this prized democratic value by according the Chief Justice due process of law in accordance with the rules governing the difficult process of impeachment,” the IBP also said. “This will also afford our people the opportunity to decide for themselves whether the causes against her are contrived or artificial, or are impressed with merit as to necessitate the extreme measure of removal from office.”
The group added: “We express firm belief that conviction after an impeachment trial is the only Constitutionally-recognized mode by which to remove a sitting Chief Justice. The Constitution reigns supreme over all other rules. Any artifice or device intended to solely target the Chief Justice and short-circuit the process would be repugnant to the Constitution, and must be slain on sight if our democratic processes are to be observed.”
SERENO DARES HOUSE
In his petition, Mr. Lozano cited as bases the pending impeachment complaint against Ms. Sereno as well as Article 5 of the Civil Code that “Any act against a mandatory or prohibitory provision of law is void.”
He added that “the protracted and scandalous controversy” surrounding her appointment and the impeachment complaint has caused “deep division and dissension in the Bench and Bar.”
Lastly, he called on the SC, “under its inherent and plenary powers, (to) promptly rule, motu proprio, upon the validity of Chief Justice Sereno’s appointment. The verdict will also preserve the independence of the Judiciary from Congress.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Sereno, for her part, dared the House of Representatives to bring her impeachment case to the Senate.
“If they were so sure of their evidence…why not bring it to the Senate?” she said in a speech to law students at the University of Baguio on Friday morning, the second day of her indefinite leave.
“Give me my day in the Senate impeachment court or admit that there is no probable cause,” she also said.
Ms. Sereno also chided “proponents of impeachment (who) have bared their uncertainties” by claiming solid evidence against her “but at the same time calling for my resignation.” — Dane Angelo M. Enerio, with a report by InterAksyon.com