'It's the president's duty to warn people if there is a fire in the house'
MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte was not interfering with the judiciary, dismissing observations that the tough-talking leader risks starting a constitutional crisis when he supposedly encroached on the executive's co-equal branch's administrative power over judges.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno told Duterte in a letter that the judiciary was ''caught unprepared'' by his move to name 7 judges with alleged links to the illegal drug trade.
Sereno stressed that the judiciary has administrative supervision over all courts, and that by being linked to the drug trade, the 7 judges were put in a vulnerable position.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella told reporters that Duterte merely exercised his role as ''father of the nation'' when he named the seven judges, one of whom turned out to be already dead.
''He is actually exercising his position as father to the nation, calling attention to what is an extraordinary situation facing the society,'' Abella said.
''In other words, it is something equivalent to shouting fire. There is a fire in the house. It is his moral duty to be able to warn people that there is fire in the house."
Abella said Duterte did not interfere with the judicial process when he named and shamed the judges.
''This is not the judicial process yet. He is simply calling attention,'' he said.
''I believe PRRD (Duterte) has already made reference to that and told them to go to the SC and clear their names there. If their (judges) names are cleared, then they are cleared."
In a press briefing on Monday evening, Duterte said he will respond to Sereno's letter. He said he will tell Sereno that he was just doing his job.
"Out of respect to the Supreme Court, I will also answer. Sabihin ko ma'am ganito yan. My words are, it is not accusatorial. It is not a criminal information. It is my word against the others because I have a duty to tell the public para malaman nila ang danger sa ating bayan, para malaman natin kung sino ang nagpalaki ng industriya," he said.
Bu the SC has taken seriously Duterte's exposé, directing the Palace on Tuesday to submit complaints against four judges named in the list of alleged "protectors" of the illegal drug trade.
The high court has decided to treat Duterte's speech on August 7 as basis for complaints against these judges.
SC spokesperson Theodore Te said the SC is directing Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to submit within seven days complaints for administrative proceedings against four out of seven judges in the president’s list.