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Sereno impeach leads to tyrannical rule — lawyers' group

Groups of lawyers and former government officials in separate statements say the impeachment complaints filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno are attempts to weaken independent bodies such as the Supreme Court that check the excesses of the government. The STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN, File

MANILA, Philippines — A group of lawyers on Thursday warned that the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno could pave the way for a tyrannical rule as it weakens the independence of the judiciary.

In a statement, National Union of People’s Lawyers stressed that the impeachment bid filed against Sereno would undermine the independence of the judiciary and dilute the separation of powers and checks and balances.

“These supposed democratic safeguards against autocratic rule are being speedily disposed of ironically under the pretensions to good government,” NUPL said.

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The group added: “It is essentially not about the office holder that is the issue. It is about the office being truncated by the other wild, more aggressive branches.”

READHouse panel approves first impeach complaint against Sereno

On Wednesday, the House justice committee found lawyer Larry Gadon’s impeachment complaint against Sereno “sufficient in form and substance.”

Voting 30-4, most of the panel’s members agreed with COOP–NATCO party-list Rep. Anthony Bravo to declare the validity of Gadon’s complaint.

The grounds for the impeachment cases against the chief justice include culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

However, the same committee junked the second complaint filed by Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Eligio Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution.

Only five solons found the second complaint sufficient, while 28 voted against it due to “flawed” verification.  

“These judgmental maneuvers might end in a docile Court disrobed of independence and credibility, dismissing seats for dissent and divergence, nay reason, common sense and conviction," NUPL stressed.

‘Attempt to immobilize constitutional bodies’

In a joint statement, Former Senior Government Officials and International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance on Tuesday also slammed the impeachment cases filed against Sereno.

Both groups noted the cases are “insidious attempt to immobilize and weaken” institutions that check on the excesses of the executive.

READImpeachment against Sereno raises political questions

“We see this as part of a bigger strategy to compromise the Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Elections—all constitutional bodies designed to serve as checks and balances of governance,” they said.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon also dealt with threats of removal from office. 

Earlier this week, a total of 119 lawmakers on Tuesday voted to allocate a measly P1,000 budget to the CHR for 2018.

Tensions between Duterte and Sereno started to arise when Duterte threatened to order everyone in the executive branch to stop respecting the chief justice or else he would declare martial law. This came after Sereno said the president’s decision to name “narco-judges” could lead to a constitutional crisis.

Sereno also voted against the burial of late president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. In her dissenting statement, Sereno said the hero’s burial would degrade the pains of Marcos' martial law victims and disregard documented truths regarding his regime.

“Because she consistently advocates and upholds the rule of law, due process and human rights—she is now targeted as an obstruction to the administration’s 'war on drugs,'” the groups said.

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