President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his departure statement at the Ninoy International Airport before leaving for the Republic of Korea where he is scheduled for a three-day on June 3, 2018. The President is set to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a summit which aims to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations.
Presidential Photo/Ace Morandante
Don't interfere in Philippine affairs, Duterte tells UN rapporteur
( - June 3, 2018 - 2:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday lashed at the United Nations special rapporteur who criticized the high court ruling that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying he can "go to hell" for allegedly meddling with the Philippines' affairs.

Duterte said he does not recognize the title of UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán, who previously claimed that the Supreme Court decision that ousted Sereno sent a chilling effect to the judiciary.

"He (Sayán) is not a special person. And I do not recognize his rapporteur title. Tell him not to interfere with the affairs of my country. He can go to hell. Tell him," the president told reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

"B****. He is meddling. That's an internal problem of the country. You should not meddle with it," he added. Sereno, who was named chief justice by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2012, has been critical of Duterte's brutal war on illegal drugs.

Last month, the Supreme Court voided the appointment of Sereno because of her failure to submit some of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth. Voting 8-6, the high court said Sereno was ineligible to become chief justice because of "lack of integrity."

The ruling stemmed from a quo warranto petition by Solicitor General Jose Calida, who claimed that Sereno had failed to meet the law's requirements on the submission of SALN.

Sereno's camp, however, maintains that the chief justice can only be ousted through impeachment.

Her camp has also maintained that the JBC had considered the SALNs that Sereno submitted as being in substantial compliance with the requirement.

While the solicitor general is the top lawyer of the government, Duterte claimed that he had nothing to do with the quo warranto petition against Sereno.

When Sereno challenged Duterte's claim, the president became furious, declared himself an "enemy" of Sereno and vowed to support efforts to oust her.

Last week, Sayán expressed alarm over the President's statements, saying the independence of the Philippine judiciary is under attack.

The UN special rapporteur, who made an academic visit to the Philippines, noted that the ouster of Sereno came two days after Duterte expressed support for moves to unseat Sereno. Sayán also raised concerns over what he described as the "worrisome deterioration" of the rule of law in the country.

"Wala akong pakialam diyan. Sabihin mo 'yang p***** i**** rapporteur na 'yan, pumunta siya sa impiyerno (I don't care about that. Tell that son of a b**** rapporteur to go to hell)," the President said.

Duterte admitted that he was angry with Sereno for accusing him of orchestrating efforts to remove her from office.

He, however, insisted that he had nothing to do with the quo warranto petition filed by Calida.

Calida petition related to Marcos burial?

The president said Calida filed the quo warranto petition as an Ilocano who was "hurt" by the opposition to the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (heroes' cemetery).

Calida defended the Duterte administration's decision to give Marcos a hero's burial before the Supreme Court in 2016. "Calida is doing it because he's an Ilocano. He's hurt because of 'the denial of the burial ni Marcos. She (Sereno) though I was interfering," Duterte said.

"You know, Calida, he was doing it as an Ilocano. He is a lawyer. Pati 'yang siya ang nagdala ng - sabi na ipalibing (He was the one who pushed for the burial). Following the law, you're a solider and a president...And they were criticizing me left and right. I said that’s the law. What can I do?"

The high court ruling allowing the burial of Marcos at the heroes' cemetery sparked outrage among human rights activists who claim that it desecrated the memory of those who resisted martial law.

Sereno was one of the five justices who disagreed with ruling along with Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Alfredo Caguioa and Francis Jardeleza.

Duterte maintained that he never spoke with any lawmaker about the impeachment of Sereno.

"Ask them (lawmakers) whether I told them to impeach her. If you can find one who can confirm it, I will step down as president. I will resign. I do not intervene," he said. —Alexis Romero

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