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Palace: Chief justice should resign to spare SC further damage

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that he believes President Rodrigo Duterte shares his belief that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should resign from her post. PPD/Toto Lozano

MANILA, Philippines (Updated: 1:37 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte wants Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign as the impeachment complaint against her gains ground, his de facto spokesperson said Monday.

Rep. Harry Roque (Kabayan party-list), who has been designated presidential spokesperson, in a press briefing on Monday first said that he wants Sereno to resign to "spare [the judiciary from] further damage."

Asked if Duterte believes the same, Roque said: "Of course, the President wants her removed, altogether, by all means. And, of course, like Andy Bautista, she could spare the Court from further damage by resigning."
 
 

 
He stressed that he is not undermining the judiciary but is "only commenting on an impeachment proceeding."
 
Roque said that his concern comes as a "senior lawyer, a law professor."
 
He added: "I don't think the judiciary can survive another decision that would remove an incumbent chief justice."
 
The late Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached in December 2011 on the grounds of betrayal of public trust.
 
"I call upon Chief Justice Sereno to really consider resigning if only to spare the institution from any further damage," Roque added.
 

'Duterte upholds judicial independence'

Sereno, speaking at the 8th International Conference on the Training of the Judiciary on Monday morning, said: "[T]he world has been seeing in many regions a resurgence of political forces threatening and harassing the independence of the judiciary."
 
But Roque, known for his acid tongue, said that the chief justice "has only herself to blame" if she feels that the judiciary has been damaged due to her impeachment case.
 
Roque also stressed that Duterte, a member of the bar, has taken an oath to uphold the independence of the judiciary.
 
He referred to the judiciary as "the weakest branch of the government," but which the executive treats as a "co-equal branch of the government."
 
He added: "What will undermine the independence of the judiciary will be acts committed by agents of the judiciary would lead to the initiation of the impeachment proceedings."
 
 
Duterte and Sereno have been at loggerheads since early 2016 when the chief executive released names of alleged members of the bench involved in the illegal drug trade. Sereno called the disclosure of the list premature and wrote to Duterte to inform him that the SC would be launching a probe into the judges he named.
 
Lawyer Larry Gadon, a Duterte supporter and who ran for the Senate under the Marcos-era Kilusang Bagong Lipunan in 2016, filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno that is still at the committee level. Sereno's letter was one of the supposed grounds for impeachment.
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