Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Friday asked political leaders to give her her day in the Senate impeachment court, saying it is her duty to give an accounting of her actions to the people.
"I only ask one thing from the politicial leaders, only one thing: Give me my day in the Senate impeachment court or admit that there is no probable cause. That is also what I have been consistently saying to those who asked me to resign. No, I will not [resign]. I will give an account of my actions as Chief Justice to the people," she said in a forum in Baguio City.
"I do not know owe anyone the duty to resign. I owe the people the duty to tell my story."
Sereno, who is facing an impeachment complaint before the Lower Chamber, said she remains steadfast in fighting for judicial independence and extended an olive branch to fellow Supreme Court magistrates who had urged her to take an indefinite leave of absence.
"l am hopeful that after the impeachment trial, days of renewal for the Supreme Court can still be forged, united by the common desire to serve our people and protect their constitutional rights especially in these troubled times," she said.
She also told young people: "It is when hope seems to be at its dimmest that you must be at your bravest for without moral courage then the human race is a lost cause. We simply cannot give up."
Sereno, who has drawn the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, started an indefinite leave on March 1 to prepare for a possible impeachment trial. She is accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes including omitting income from mandatory declarations dating back a decade, before she became chief justice in 2012.
Duterte's political allies dominate the 300-seat lower house and it is widely expected they will vote to impeach Sereno this month.
If the House of Representatives votes to impeach an official, the case goes for trial to the Senate, which now has 23 members. A two-thirds vote is needed to remove the official.
Some of Duterte's critics speculate that his loyalists driving the impeachment move are uncomfortable with the prospect of Sereno holding the Supreme Court's top post until 2030, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Sereno may become the second top judge on the Supreme Court to be impeached after Renato Corona was removed during a senate trial in 2012, also for not disclosing income. With Reuters