MANILA - (3rd UPDATE) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to answer allegations he was behind moves to remove her from office.
Speaking before a gathering of the "Movement Against Tyranny," Sereno asked the President why Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court to invalidate her appointment through a "quo warranto" petition.
Sereno also asked why one of the bases of the impeachment against her was a letter she sent to Duterte, wherein she sought due process against members of the judiciary who are accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade.
"Kaya humihingi ako ng sagot: Ganoon po ba Pangulong Duterte?"
"Dapat na po pala akong maalis either by quo warranto or impeachment," she said.
(That's why I am asking for an answer: Is that the way it is, President Duterte? I should be impeached either by quo warranto or impeachment.)
The President's spokesperson can deny the chief executive's hand in the ouster moves, but Sereno said: "Matalino ho ang Pilipino. Nakakaintindi po sila. Hindi kailangan ispelengin sa kanila ang katotohanan."
(Filipinos are smart. They understand. You do not need to spell out the truth for them.)
"Mr. President, kung sinabi mong wala kang kinalalaman dito, paki paliwanag po bakit si SolGen Calida na nagre-report sa 'yo ang nag-file ng quo warranto," she said.
(Mr. President, if you say that you have no hand in this, please explain why Solicitor General Calida, who reports to you, filed the quo warranto.)
Sereno described the 9 months since the impeachment proceedings were initiated as a "grueling ordeal" as she is "vilified" daily.
"The budget for this must be in the hundreds of million. Baka umabot na ng isang bilyon (It could even run up to a billion)," she said.
She said the quo warranto petition, which cited the statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth she allegedly failed to submit, was "laughable" and that Calida filed the petition because the House lawmakers did not find any anomaly during their hearing on the impeachment complaint against her.
"Nakakatawa at nakakahiya na ang Solicitor-General nagbubungkal ng kung ano ang dineklara ko nung ako ay 30 years old. Fifty-seven na po ako ngayon, magfi-58 na," she said.
(It's laughable and embarrassing that the Solicitor General is trying to dig into what I declared when I was 30 years old. I am now 57, about to turn 58.)
"Nakakahiya kasi ito ang supposedly one of the top government lawyers in the country, pero ang pinagtutuunan niya yung mga nangyari 20, 30 years ago. Hindi pa ho ako man lang nasa Supreme Court," she added.
(This is embarrassing because he is supposedly one of the top government lawyers in the country, but he's spending his time looking into what happened 20, 30 years ago. I was not even part of the Supreme Court then.)
"Height of absurdity, saksakan ng kalokohan. Ibig sabihin, napaka-maka-demonyo ng ginagawa nila sa akin."
(It's the height of absurdity, full of foolishness. What they're doing to me is demonizing.)
She said she had to face off with the President of the country and it was "hypocrisy" that in trying to remove her from power, the concerned had to delve into her earnings from before she was even a magistrate.
"Tingnan nila yung paninilbihan ko, hindi yung ginawa ko nung ako’y temporary assistant professor pa lang sa UP noon, na ang suweldo ay P6,000," she said.
DUTERTE FIRES BACK
Duterte, for his part, declared himself as Sereno's "enemy" and instructed the House of Representatives, where he holds a supermajority of allies, to "fast track" the impeachment proceedings against her.
"Ikaw Sereno, sinabi ko na sayo, hindi ako nakialam. If you are insisting, count me in. Count me in and I will egg Calida to do his best. Ako na mismo maglakad, magkalaban sa’yo. Sinabi ko na sayong hindi ako nakikialam," he told reporters before he left for China for the Boao Forum.
"Sige ka diyan, daldal nang daldal, sige, upakan kita. I will help any investigator, talagang upakan kita. I am putting you on notice na I am now your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court. I will see to it then after that I will request the Congress, go into the impeachment right away," he said.
The High Court is set to hold oral arguments on the quo warranto petition on April 10, Tuesday.
Sereno said she would fight for victims of alleged extrajudicial killings.
Alleged extra-judicial killings have been linked to the government's war on drugs, which it has repeatedly denied.
"Iyung mga naging biktima ng EJK at mga ina nila, hanggang ngayon wala pa silang investigation report, hanggang ngayon hindi pa nila malaman kung sino sa operasyon," she said.
"Sa ngalan ng mga namatayan sa mga hindi makatarungang paraan... hayaan niyo po na ang boses ko ay maging boses niyo rin."
(EJK victims and their families have yet to get investigation reports and find out who were involved in the operations. In the name of those who lost loved ones to unjust means, let my voice be yours, too.)