MANILA - Removing Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from power through any other means other than impeachment would be unconstitutional and a "brazen usurpation" of lawmakers' exclusive power, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV warned Supreme Court justices on Sunday.
The Supreme Court en banc last week agreed for Sereno to take an "indefinite leave" amid allegations that she did not disclose her wealth in full during the selection process for Chief Justice.
Trillanes cited reports that some magistrates "headed by AJ (Associate Justice) Marvic Leonen are maneuvering to force the unconstitutional removal" of Sereno, who is facing impeachment proceedings.
"Any attempt to remove the Chief Justice through a process other than impeachment is unconstitutional. It will be a brazen usurpation of the exclusive power of Congress under the Constitution," Trillanes said in a statement.
He said any unconstitutional act committed by the justices can be "used as a ground for impeachment against them later on under a different administration."
"For those who are retired by then, these acts can and will be used as basis for graft cases," he added.
Sereno's spokespersons initially said she was only going on a 15-day "wellness leave" to prepare for her trial in the Senate.
Her camp later said they had no real time information about the Supreme Court en banc's decision urging the chief magistrate to take an indefinite leave, which started last Thursday.
The House justice committee on Wednesday will vote on whether or not there is probable cause in the impeachment case against Sereno.
The country's top magistrate has denied the accusations against her. She "looks forward" to a fair impeachment trial before the Senate, her camp had said.