MANILA - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday said policymakers should spend time strengthening existing government institutions instead of overhauling the Constitution.
Sereno gave the statement as a consultative committee created by President Rodrigo Duterte is in the process of drafting of a federal charter that will be submitted to Congress for approval.
"The Constitution, if we had just been paying serious attention to it, would've worked in the past and can still work in the future," Sereno said in a forum in Manila.
The 1987 Constitution is still effective should the judiciary, Ombudsman and other constitutional commissions be granted autonomy and should be allowed to to enjoy "democracy, not authoritarianism," Sereno said.
"We do not have to reinvent the wheel, at least in this area.
What should occupy much of our people's time is not politics but how we can build our nation brick by brick by ensuring that as designed, the important watchdogs and checks and balances that are designed to work, indeed work," said the chief justice, who is facing impeachment charges before the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court.
"For us to build a genuinely democratic and prosperous nation, all public institutions must be populated with people of integrity, skills, and the management know-hows to make the institutions run well," she said.
The top magistrate also slammed unnamed incumbent government officials for violating the values enshrined in the Constitution.
"The current state of the nation is one... where fake news and propaganda abound to deceive and manipulate rather than to enlighten and educate, where coarseness, including the denigration of women, rather than civility mark the language of the podium," she said.
Sereno did not mention names but Duterte had been criticized for his unstatesmanlike demeanor and anti-woman remarks during public speeches, the latest of which was an order to shoot female rebels in their genitals.
On Tuesday, Duterte said he "never initiated" the filing of impeachment cases against Sereno, but admitted that he called out the chief justice for several pending cases and her alleged flip-flopping decisions.
"You can ask anybody, I never initiated si Sereno,” Duterte said in a speech at the oath-taking ceremony of Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.
“I just called her attention because of the so many cases pending tapos pa-iba ang decision niya. ‘Yung the very complaint now of the justices, ‘yun lang ‘yun. O kita mo, ‘di lumabas rin," the President said.