Aquino: Fear of De Lima's fate happening to me crossed my mind

Aquino: Fear of De Lima's fate happening to me crossed my mind
Former President Benigno Aquino III appointed Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice in 2012. On May 11, 2018, the SC voted 8-6 to remove Sereno as head of the judiciary.
Philstar.com / File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Former President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said it has crossed his mind that he could suffer the same fate as detained Sen. Leila de Lima.

Asked if there is fear that he might also end up behind bars like De Lima, Aquino said in Filipino: “We could not help but think of that.”

The former president is currently facing complaints before the Department of Justice, Commission on Elections and Office of the Ombudsman over his alleged involvement in the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine program. The complaints were filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution—groups who support President Rodrigo Duterte.

Aquino is also facing a case before the Sandiganbayan over the botched Mamasapano operations. In addition, the probe into the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program under his administration was reopened.

Aquino questioned the use of convicts as witnesses in the case of De Lima—a staunch critic of Duterte—who was accused on allowing the proliferation of the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as the justice chief.

RELATED: Palace to ex-President Aquino: Leila de Lima in jail over drugs, not politics

Aquino: Sereno's case different from Corona's

The former president added that he also has an issue with the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice since he thought the decision was “forced.”

“Masyadong pinilit yung naging desisyon,” he said.

Aquino, however, stressed that the case of Sereno is far from the case of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Aquino said that Corona’s ouster went through the impeachment process that is mandated by the Constitution.

“The first case (Corona’s) went through a process. When you look at (Sereno’s)—the Senate, Congress—the Supreme Court suddenly entered into the picture,” Aquino said.

Sereno, Aquino’s appointee to the high court, was removed from her position by her colleagues on May 11. The SC granted Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition against her that accused Sereno of “lacking integrity” due to her failure to submit her wealth declaration documents.

Corona’s ouster was also grounded on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

The late chief justice was impeached by the Liberal Party-dominated House of Representatives on December 2011.  Months later, the Senate voted 20-3 convicting the late chief justice over his failure to disclose bank deposits in his SALN.

Both chief justices caught the ire of presidents.

Corona, after he was impeached, said that it was his decision on the Hacienda Luisita—land owned by the Cojuangco’s—case that led to his ouster. Aquino, in a public speech, also said that Corona was put in his position to “cover up the corruption of [former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo].”

Sereno, meanwhile, was publicly branded by Duterte as his enemy. Duterte has also lashed out against Sereno when the latter called out the president for accusing trial court judges of being linked to the illegal drug trade.

Sereno has appealed her ouster before the SC on May 30. She filed a 205paged motion for reconsideration asking the high tribunal to reverse its voting on the quo warranto petition.

READ: In appeal of ouster, Sereno warns of 'far-reaching consequences' of SC ruling

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