MANILA - Led by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), several lawyers' groups on Wednesday urged the United Nations to investigate efforts to unseat Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
An impeachment process and a quo warranto petition both seek Sereno's removal from office over allegations that she failed to declare her wealth, bypassed her colleagues in the issuance of court orders and led a lavish lifestyle, which she denied.
The ouster moves against Sereno are among events that allegedly "threaten the independence of the judiciary," which lawyers cited in their communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, IBP president Abdiel Fajardo told reporters.
Also cited in the communication, he said, are alleged efforts to connect lawyers to the crimes of the clients they represent, especially those tagged in the narcotics trade, as well as the attempt to include lawyers and judges in the list of suspected terrorists.
"It is our position that judicial independence is fundamental to the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law," Fajardo said.
"There is a direct relation between the weakening of safeguards for the judiciary and lawyers, and the gravity and frequency of human rights violations," he added.
Another UN Special Rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, has expressed interest in investigating Manila's anti-narcotics drive.
Malacañang had said it was open to inquiry, as long as it will not be headed by Callamard, who was accused of bias against President Rodrigo Duterte.
The UN probe into the state of the Philippine judiciary "might serve as an encouragement to our government to somehow return to due process and other basic tenets in the constitution respecting the rule of law," Fajardo told ANC.
"As lawyers, we want to appear in courts who will only resolve cases based on the evidence and the law that is applicable," he said.
"As practitioners, we do not want to appear before judges who are intimidated, fearful and who are somehow affected in their judgement because their judgement might offend other branches of government," he added.