MANILA - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, not President Rodrigo Duterte, is a threat to the integrity of the judicial branch, the President's spokesman said Thursday amid a possible United Nations probe into the state of the Philippine judiciary.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the impeachment case and quo warranto petition seeking Sereno's removal are anchored on her failure to fully declare her wealth.
"This is not about the President attacking the institution. It's about the Chief Justice herself admitting to violating an existing law which will have an impact on the integrity of the court itself," he told ANC.
"If there is a threat to the independence of the court, the integrity of the court, it is the Chief Justice herself."
Lawyers' groups on Wednesday asked a UN special rapporteur to probe Duterte's alleged "attacks against the judiciary", including attempts to unseat Sereno.
Roque, however, noted that Sereno's colleagues forced her to go on leave last March after 5 of them testified against her in the impeachment proceedings.
"Where is the attack on the judiciary when the judiciary itself wants to cleanse itself from within?" he said.
The President, he said, told Sereno that he was her "enemy" only after her peers demanded that she go on leave.
It is also the Supreme Court, he said, which has sole jurisdiction over the quo warranto petition against Sereno.
"If the Supreme Court says that it is within its jurisdiction, so be it. And again, where is the attack on the judiciary there?" he said.
Roque said he will write to the UN rapporteur about the pronouncement of Sereno's colleagues against her and the impeachment findings of House justice committee.
The Supreme Court will decide on the quo warranto please against Sereno in May, an ABS-CBN source said.
The country's first female chief justice was expected to stay in her post until reaching the mandatory retirement age in 2030.