Hasty impeachment proceedings vs Sereno could weaken courts, facilitate tyranny: NUPL

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Philstar file photo of Supreme Court facade

MANILA, Philippines – As the House of Representatives steps up its exercise of its impeachment power by tackling the complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, a group of lawyers warned such “rituals” could weaken the independence of the judiciary and usher in a “tyrannical rule.”

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said Thursday that in the context of “present realities,” the impeachment moves against the Chief Justice would only serve to undermine the independence of the judiciary and dilute the separation of powers and checks and balances.

“It is essentially not about the office holder that is the issue. It is about the office being truncated by the other wild, more aggressive branches,” Edre Olalia, NUPL president said in a statement.

“These supposed democratic safeguards against autocratic rule are being speedily disposed of ironically under the pretensions to good government,” he added.

Olalia warned that “when the partisan blindfolds are removed, we should see that tyrannical rule is being institutionalized through the trappings of rituals by insidious decapitation of those who will not toe the line or who would stand in the way of self-righteous monopolization of political power.”

“These judgmental maneuvers might end in a docile Court disrobed of independence and credibility, dismissing seats for dissent and divergence, nay reason, common sense and conviction. Then woe to all those who have to come to court already cynical, frustrated and disillusioned as they already are. Then justice slayed is justice denied,” he said.

In a separate statement, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said, “Si Duterte na nagpapatay ng libo-libong Pilipino at nagnakaw ng bilyon-bilyon, binasura ninyo yung impeachment, pero si CJ Sereno na bumili diumano ng SUV, gusto nyo nang i-impeach agad, Galing nyo!”

[You hurriedly dismissed the impeachment complaint against President Duterte who killed thousands and stole millions; but you want CJ Sereno impeached quickly allegedly for buying an SUV. You’re really good!].

In a hearing Wednesday, September 13, the House committee on justice, with mostly administration allies, found the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno sufficient in form and substance. The panel will formally inform the Chief Justice of the result of the hearing and will ask her to respond to the allegations in 10 days.

In his opening statement, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairperson of the panel, underscored Congress’ power of impeachment.

He also acknowledged that impeachment is a political exercise and that the final decision rests on the elected representatives.

Aside from the Sereno complaint, an impeachment complaint had also been filed against Commission on Election chairperson Andres Bautista. A complaint was also submitted to the Office of the Speaker against Vice President Leni Robredo, but it has no endorsers yet.