MANILA - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday said she would not yield to harassment and would fight "fiercely" for judicial independence just as House committee members voted to proceed with her impeachment case.
"All kinds of lies, threats, harassment, and bullying have been thrown my way but I will not yield," Sereno said in a speech delivered during a Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) event in Manila.
"When beset with malicious allegations, the good judge must reply with truth. When harassed, the good judge maintains her composure. When pressed to yield to evil, the good judge says ‘no,'" Sereno told the audience, including PWJA president Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.
De Castro was among justices who had testified against Sereno during impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives, while Carpio was among justices who decided to have the top magistrate go on an indefinite leave for "various reasons."
Sereno is facing an impeachment case at the House of Representatives for allegedly failing to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth before she was appointed to the post in 2012, and other supposed administrative lapses.
The Solicitor General also lodged a case challenging the validity of her appointment as chief magistrate before the high court.
Sereno slammed impeachment proponents for supposedly seeking such extra-constitutional means to oust her as top magistrate.
"Anything less than an impeachment trial, considering that the House Committee on Justice has denied me my right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses and resource persons arraigned against me, is nothing but blatantly unfair," Sereno said.
"Sila ang nagsimula, bakit ayaw nilang tapusin? Napakaaga naman yata para umamin sila na wala silang napala kundi matinding kabiguan kaya’t kung ano-ano na lamang gimik ang ginawa nila masunod lamang ang kanilang nais," she said, in reference to those behind her impeachment case.
"I must fight to have my day at the Senate impeachment court. This fight is a fight for judicial independence, for the right of every member of the court to confront her accuser face-to-face in a trial-type proceeding," she said.
House Justice Committee chair Reynaldo Umali earlier asked Sereno to step down from her post to help save the country time and resources.
In her defiant speech, Sereno said she would not "throw in the white towel."
"Judicial independence will not come to us on a silver platter, it must be fought for fiercely," Sereno said.
"I am fighting for our future as a freedom-loving nation. I am fighting for our honor as apostles of the Rule of Law. I will not throw in the towel," she added.
On Thursday, the House Justice Committee, voting 38 in favor and 2 against, found probable cause to impeach the chief justice.
Umali said he expects to receive a two-thirds vote from the plenary to elevate Sereno's ouster case before the Senate impeachment court.
Currently on leave as she faced an impeachment case, Sereno was appointed to the high court in 2012 by former president Benigno Aquino III following the ouster of the late chief magistrate Renato Corona, who was removed for undeclared wealth.
The country's first female chief justice was expected to stay in her post until reaching the mandatory retirement age in 2030.