Pro-democracy groups form Sereno support coalition

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House session; Chief Justice Sereno in inset. Base photograph: Philstar file.

MANILA – Various advocating democracy and the rule of law have banded together in support of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is facing an impeachment complaint before the House of Representatives.

The groups gathered at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City Monday to launch the “Coalition for Justice” amid what they described as “persistent efforts of a powerful few to impeach the Chief Justice on charges that are clearly baseless and malicious.”

In a statement, the coalition branded the ongoing impeachment proceedings as a “mockery of the rule of law” and an “assault on the independence of the judiciary and the institutions necessary to preserve democracy.”

“Should political forces succeed in removing the Chief Justice by the simple expedient of violating her basic rights, they would have damaged the country irreparably by severely weakening one of the institutions we can rely on to check abuse in government and uphold individual rights under the Constitution,” the coalition warned. “A rigged process is ultimately a mockery of the Constitution – and sets democracy for a fall.”

The coalition also warned that the attacks against the Chief Justice and the denial of her fundamental rights at the impeachment hearings could be a prelude to authoritarian rule that has no respect for human rights.

“Our own painful history has shown that a government allowed to run roughshod over the rights of one can only be emboldened to trample on the rights of all,” the coalition said.

“Our own experience of authoritarian rule in the not-so-distant past illustrates the danger we all face if but one person is denied his or her basic rights,” it added.

The coalition vouched for Sereno’s integrity, independence and impartiality, which she has shown during the half decade she was at the helm of the judiciary.

It noted that the Chief Justice has been conducting herself in a manner that befits her office and consistent with the canons of the bar and the bench.

“Under her stewardship, the Supreme Court has spearheaded much-needed reforms in the judiciary to ensure transparency and accountability in the high court and to uphold the independence of the nation’s last bulwark of democracy,” the coalition said.

The multisectoral group likewise lamented how the administration-dominated House Committee on Justice “brazenly denied Chief Justice Sereno her most basic rights, while her accuser was accorded every concession imaginable to present a poorly conceived case built on hearsay and misrepresentations of fact and law.”

The coalition is composed of evangelical and religious groups, such as the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and Intercessors for the Philippines; and cause-oriented groups like The Silent Majority, Filipinos for Accountability, Integrity, Truth and Honor (FAITH), Prayer Battalion for Truth and Justice, Martial Law Chronicles Project, Knights of Democracy and Students for Human Rights.

Members of the Makabayan bloc in the Lower House—ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus, Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes, Sanlakas national president Manjette Lopez, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) and Palawan 5 Summit of Bishops have issued their separate statements in support of Sereno.