Judges, officials, and rank and file employees of the judiciary backed calls for embattled Chief Justice on-leave Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign from her post amid impeachment proceedings against her in the House of Representatives.
The call was formally made during Monday’s flag-raising ceremony at the Supreme Court (SC) grounds, the second "Red Monday" activity following Sereno’s indefinite leave beginning March 1st.
The first "Red Monday" observed by SC justices, officials, and employees on March 5 was a show of solidarity and support for the court en banc’s move to cause Sereno’s indefinite leave in light of the impeachment proceedings. The decision was unanimously made by 13 justices, with Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa on leave.
The resignation call, dubbed ‘Panawagan sa Pagbibitiw,’ was made by the 1,200-strong Philippine Judges Association (PJA); Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE), the umbrella organization of all court employees nationwide, which boasts of a membership of at least 25,000; Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA); Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees (SCALE), the separate organization of lawyers employed at the SC; and the Sandiganbayan Employees Association (SEA).
“Kami, ang buong puwersa ng Hudikatura, na kinabibilangan ng mga huwes, opisyal at mga kawani sa ilalim ng inyong pamamahala, ay nakikiusap sa inyo, mahal naming Punong Mahistrado, Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, upang gawin na ang napapanahon at nararapat na pagsasakripisyo para sa ating Hudikatura, ang lnstitusyon na inyong pinaglaanan ng panahon at pagmamahal ng mga nakalipas na taon. Kami po ay nananawagan, para na rin po sa kapakanan ng buong Sambayanang Pilipino, na kayo po ay bumaba na sa puwesto at magbitiw bilang Punong Mahistrado o Chief Justice,” the statement read.
The judges, officials, and judiciary employees pointed out that the impeachment proceedings against Sereno damaged the reputation of the judiciary, its magistrates, officials, and employees — an environment that should no longer be allowed to continue.
“The pending impeachment proceedings in recent months have put the entire Judiciary in disrepute, thereby affecting the honor and integrity of its justices, judges, officials and rank and file personnel. Court officials have been pitted against each other resulting in a distressing atmosphere. This is aggravated by the fact that the Court en banc has taken cognizance of the petition for quo warranto and ordered her to file her comment thereto, instead of dismissing it outright. The Court can no longer endure a prolonged environment of this kind.'
“Its officials and personnel, truly dedicated and conscientious public servants, cannot go through another set of hearings and go against each other again at the Senate,” the statement read.
The quo warranto petition, filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), urged the high court to void Sereno’s appointment due to her ineligibility to hold the post, alleging her failure to file her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) for a period of 17 years during her teaching stint at the University of the Philippines College of Law was in violation of the integrity requirement under the 1987 Constitution and the rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
The resignation call is urging Sereno to spare herself from the pain and humiliation of removal from office, and give way to her successor in order to restore peace in the judiciary, and enable it to perform its mandate to deliver justice to the people.
“Chief Justice, let us please not allow history to judge you as the first woman chief justice, and the youngest at that, to be removed from office. Dahil po dito, masakit man at mabigat sa aming kalooban, kami po na iyong nasasakupan ay mayroong nag-iisang panawagan. Panawagan na alam namin na hindi lamang para sa inyong kabutihan, kung hindi sa kabutihan ng ating pinakamamahal na Institusyon, ang Hudikatura."
“Kaya po buong kababaan ng loob ay sama-sama kaming nananawagan sa inyo, mahal naming Punong Mahistrado, na kaagad na ninyong lisanin ang inyong puwesto, magparaya sa susunod na mamumuno at bigyan ang kabubuan ng Hudikatura ng pagkakataon na patuloy na sumulong at maibalik ang katahimikan at kaayusan dito. Ito na lamang ang aming nakikitang solusyon, ang gawin ninyo ang pinakamataas na sakripisyo na may dangal at buong paghanga buhat sa amin, at ito ay ang kaagad ninyong pagbibitiw bilang aming Punong Mahistrado,” the statement read.
“Chief, it is time to let go. Please let the Judiciary move on. Mabuhay ang ating Hudikatura! Sulong Korte Suprema!” it ended.
Sereno has been adamant in refusing to step down despite lack of support from within the Supreme Court and the judiciary, as a whole, during the course of the hearings at the House Justice Committee. The committee, voting 38-2 on Thursday, found probable cause to impeach her.
The March 12 ‘Red Monday’ activity will be observed in various courts nationwide.
‘Red Monday’ was first observed by the judiciary during the impeachment of Sereno’s predecessor, Chief Justice Renato Corona, as a sign of protest then by the entire judiciary against moves to oust him from office, and a show of all-out support for Corona.