Cha-cha linked to Sereno ouster: Hilbay

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 13 2018 07:07 PM | Updated as of Apr 14 2018 12:27 AM

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MANILA - Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay on Friday linked the moves to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution. 

"The larger context is that it undermines the independence of the judiciary. Kung mahina na ang ating hudikatura at raratsadahin ang charter change, the worry there is that may mga question na pwede umakyat sa ating SC (Supreme Court) in relation to charter change at kung wala ka na CJ na who is more interested in following the constitution, mas madali na ratsadahin ang charter change," Hilbay said at a charter change forum at the University of Santo Tomas. 

“Napakaimportante na tignan natin yung relationship between these attempts to undermine the independence of the judiciary, hindi lang yung particular na quo warranto proceedings na ito, kung di yung pag-atake at pag-undermine sa buong institution ng judiciary."

While he didn’t directly link the oust-Sereno moves to the charter change, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide argued that ousting the chief justice has an impact on the judiciary’s role in upholding the Constitution. 

“The independence of the judiciary will be tremendously affected by what is ongoing against the chief justice. When several judges came up to demand that she should resign...after the impeachment case is still ongoing and there is a quo warranto proceeding that was filed, I issued a call to seek the independence of the judiciary and to protect rule of law and due process," he said.

Davide added that there "seems to be conspiracy among the 3 proponents, impeachment, quo warranto and the judges for the [Sereno] resignation."

"What’s this conspiracy? Because of the feeling that probably the (chief justice) may be acquitted in the impeachment so...to preempt that possibility of a failure, a quo warranto was filed. Because [it] may be decided before impeachment, they tried to find a basis for the quo warranto though it was filed long after the expiration of the prescriptive period," he said.

"The other alternative would be that she should resign, so the move to demand resignation was a move to preempt impeachment or quo warranto. All these would affect the integrity of the court, the independence of the judiciary which is supposed to be the guardian of the constitution, the protector of people’s rights and the sentinel of rule of law.”

The ouster moves against Sereno accuse her of bypassing colleagues in the issuance of court orders, enjoying a lavish lifestyle, misdeclaring her wealth, and failing to pay about P2 million in taxes.

She has denied the allegations. 

The country's first female chief justice has been on leave from her duties at the Supreme Court since March in preparation for her impending impeachment trial. She was expected to stay in her post until she reaches the mandatory retirement age in 2030.