PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s congressional allies launched an impeachment process Thursday to remove from office Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who vowed to fight back what she claimed to be bullying.
Voting 38-2, the House of Representatives justice committee said there was “probable cause” to initiate a US-style impeachment trial in the Senate against Sereno accused of failing to pay about two million pesos ($40,000) in taxes.
“All kinds of lies, threats, harassment and bullying have been thrown my way but I will not yield,” Sereno, the country’s first female chief justice, said at an International Women’s Day event in Manila.
“I am fighting for our future as a freedom-loving nation,” the 52-year-old said, framing the case against her as an issue of “judicial independence”.
Aside from the impeachment case, the government’s chief lawyer on Monday asked the Supreme Court itself to oust its chief justice, citing her alleged failure to disclose assets.
Justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali said his panel will ask the lower house, dominated by Duterte allies, next week to send the case to the Senate for trial.
The committee also accused Sereno of falsifying and tampering with court resolutions, excessive spending by buying a luxury official vehicle, staying in “opulent” hotels and flying business class.
Duterte and Sereno first crossed swords in 2016 when the newly elected president demanded that judges he linked to the illegal drug trade hand themselves in to authorities as part of his crackdown on narcotics.
The chief justice rebuffed him, citing rule of law and separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government. (RONDA Balita Online News)