MANILA - Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno rejected Thursday an allegation by the military that her supporters are part of a "broad" coalition eyeing the removal of President Rodrigo Duterte from office next month through a plot dubbed "Red October."
Military officials over the weekend claimed that communist rebels head the coalition that will urge workers' unions to mount strikes and paralyze the manufacturing industry. Allegedly plotting were the President's critics and the Coalition for Justice (CFJ) made up of Sereno's supporters.
"Ni minsan hindi ho namin pinag-usapan na mag-aklas laban sa gobyerno o kaya ay tanggalin at palitan si Pangulong Duterte," Sereno said in a press briefing.
(Not even once did we talk about revolting against the government or removing and replacing President Duterte.)
"Wala ho kami ni minsang kagustuhan na sumama sa kahit anong kudeta na sinasabi nila. Ang amin pong hinihikayat ay isang transpormasyon ng puso, rebolusyon po sa puso, at hindi po sa pamamagitan ng armas," she added.
(We've never had any desire to join any coup d'etat, as they're alleging. We are encouraging a transformation, revolution of the heart, and not one achieved through armed struggle.)
Only God and the Constitution, she added, can dictate when Duterte should leave office.
Sereno and Duterte had clashed over the former's criticism of the anti-narcotics campaign and the President's move to name allegedly drug-linked magistrates.
The country's first chief justice was ousted in May over a quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, which accused her of failing to declare her wealth in full when she applied for her post in 2012.
Duterte denied any involvement in Sereno's fall, saying he would resign if it was proven that he ordered her sacking.
NOT RUNNING FOR THE SENATE
Sereno also confirmed during the public introduction of her new movement, “Bawat Isa Mahalaga,” at the UP Balay Kalinaw that she will not run for a Senate seat.
“Hindi po ako tatakbo,” she said.
“Itong pakikibuklod sa maliliit at mahihirap, full-time job ito…so wala na ho tayong oras para tumakbo pa sa Senado.”
(I will not run. This solidarity with the small and the poor is a full-time job. We won't have the time to run for the Senate.)
Sereno said working on the movement will entail going around the country to facilitate workshops and conduct educational activities.
She explained that the movement is founded on the fundamental theory that each life is valuable.
“Dahil hindi natin pinapahalagahan ang bawat isang Pilipino ayon sa kagustuhan ng Diyos at Konstitusyon, nagkagulo-gulo ang ating bayan. Yun ang fundamental theory niya,” she said.
(Because we do not value the life of every Filipino as God and the Constitution says, our country is in shambles. That is its fundamental theory.)
One issue the group intends to focus on is the war on drugs.
“Only one side of the narrative has been given: masama ang mga drug addicts, salot sila sa lipunan, lipulin sila. Pero di natin
naipapakita some of them are products of poverty and desperation. Who created those situations of poverty and desperation? Tayo dahil nanggigipit tayo sa mga maliliit. Because our structures are really unjust,” she said.
(Only one side of the narrative has been given: drug addicts are bad, they plague the society, they have to be exterminated. We fail to show that some of them are products of poverty and desperation. Who created those situations of poverty and desperation? It's us because we press on the small. Because our structures are really unjust)
“You don’t solve it by stamping out a class of persons na di mo nga alam kung totoo o hindi. Pero patay na sila e, wala na silang laban. Instead, what you are doing is you are creating a host of problems: you have destroyed the rule of law, you have destroyed the legal protections of ordinary people, you have destroyed the concept of second chances,” she explained.
(You don't solve it by stamping out a class of persons when you don't know if it's true or not. But they're dead now, they can no longer fight.)
During her speech, Sereno presented stories of some children who have been orphaned as a result of the drug war, like Michaella, a one-year-old child whose father was allegedly killed by the police when she was still one month old. Her mother left her and her six other siblings in the care of their paternal grandmother.
“Sino ngayon ang sasagot sa mga naulila? Kargo de konsensya natin ito.”
(Who will now answer to the orphans? That's on us.)
Sereno said that for every life lost, five lives will be affected and
by remaining silent, we have “blood in our hands.”
“Tama po ba na para mapawi ang takot natin sa mga tambay o adik, ay darating sa sitwasyon na hindi na natin kilala ang ating kaluluwa at ang ating bayan? Hindi ho natin nasisisi kung ilang sa mga batang ito maiisip maghiganti,” she said.
(Is it right that to relieve us of our fear of the bystanders or the addicts, we will come to a point that we no longer recognize our souls and our nation? We cannot blame the child if he wishes to seek revenge.)
Sereno hopes the movement she’s launching will help change public mindset.