Judges assert judicial independence amid alleged Sereno quit manifesto

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2018 12:50 PM

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno speaks during a forum entitled Laban ng Kababaihan, laban ng Bayan, (Women's struggles are a Nation's battle) at the Saint Scholastica's school in Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several judges this weekend asserted the independence of the judiciary as a supposed manifesto calling for the resignation of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno made rounds in courts. 

ABS-CBN News sources said the manifesto, signed by some judges and employees, may be made public on Monday, as Sereno grappled with impeachment proceedings and a case before the Supreme Court seeking to void her 2012 appointment.

Amid this development, some trial court judges shared on social media a statement where they vowed to protect judicial independence from "partisan politics." 

The online "upheaval," as one insider described it, is not about defending Sereno, but rather about preserving the judiciary’s independence from political pressure. 

"I stand for judicial independence. I swore to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. I am committed to abide by the canons of judicial ethics to preserve the dignity of the judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary," the statement read. 

"I have only disdain for those who try to curtail that independence and I will do what is within my authority to insulate the judiciary from partisan politics. For I believe that a working democracy means an independent judiciary and I hereby affirm my oath," it added. 

The statement did not voice support for Sereno, saying instead that: "It matters not who sits on the bench but to make sure that the wheels of justice continue to roll." 

This screen grab shows the statement shared by several judges on social media.

Among those who have shared the statement are members of the Metropolitan Trial Court Judges Association of the Philippines (METCJAP) and the Philippine Trial Judges League Inc. (PTJLI), an ABS-CBN News source said. The judges are railing against alleged moves by certain quarters within the judiciary to make it appear that judges and court employees were against Sereno. 

Ouster moves against the chief magistrate had cited her alleged failure to declare her wealth in full, her extravagant lifestyle, and supposed bypassing of colleagues in the issuance of court orders, among others. 

The chief justice has repeatedly denied the accusations. In a speech before women judges on Thursday, she slammed individuals who were "harassing" and "bullying" her.

Sereno, however, had not even taken her seat when Associate Justice Teresita De Castro called her out for talking about her ouster woes in public despite pending cases.

Sereno's defiant speech did not mention names, but De Castro was among justices who testified against her during impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives. 

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.

She is currently on indefinite leave as she prepares for a possible impeachment trial.