Malacañang indicated that it would now distance itself from the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and would just let the process take its course.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, November 7, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque said it would now be up to Congress to deal with the impeachment complaint against Sereno after she refused to voluntarily step down from her post.
“That’s fine. That’s her answer and we let it be from now on. The suggestion was made to resign so that the constitutional process of impeachment will not have to continue,” the Palace official said.
“But since she refused, we will now let the constitutional process of continue to proceed. Henceforth, that’s the call of the House and that’s the call of the Senate,” he added.
Earlier this week, Malacañang urged Sereno to resign in order to save the Supreme Court (SC) from “further damage” in case another chief justice would get ousted for the second time.
Former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Sereno’s successor, was impeached and subsequently ousted in 2012 for failing to disclose his peso and dollar accounts in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
“It will be very difficult for the judiciary to recover from a second Senate decision to remove a sitting Chief Justice because of a finding that that Chief Justice is guilty of an impeachable offense,” the Palace official said.
“I don’t think the Court can afford that so soon after the removal of former chief justice Corona,” he added.
In response, Sereno’s camp maintained that she will stay put as resignation has never been an option.
The chief justice’s camp also claimed Malacañang’s call for her resignation only means that the impeachment complaint against her is “weak.”
“We view this resignation call — instead of allowing the process to proceed — as a strong indication that the impeachment case filed against the Chief Justice is weak,” she said in a statement,” said Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokesperson.
“The public knows that the allegations against CJ Sereno are malicious and baseless. These are not even grounds for impeachment under our Constitution,” she added.
In the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, Sereno was accused of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
Sereno was accused of failing to be truthful in declaring (SALN), as well as obstructing justice when she ordered Muntinlupa judges to not to issue arrest warrants against Senator Leila De Lima.
Also cited as grounds for her impeachment were her supposed “whimsical” and “excessive” purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser amounting to P5.1 million; misuse of judiciary funds when attending local and foreign conferences; inaction the petitions for the retirement benefits of justices, judges, or their surviving spouses; among other allegations.
Deinla also refuted claim that Sereno’s resignation would “spare the institution from any further damage.”
Contrary to accusations that Sereno is “destroying” the judiciary, Deinla insisted that the chief justice is actually “leading reforms in the judicial system so the people will see that justice is running well in this country.”
“It is clear that there are forces out to destroy the entire Supreme Court and not just the Chief Justice,” Deinla claimed.
“At any rate, Attorney Roque’s statements are premature and misdirected as it is the Chief Justice’s accusers who are inflicting damage to the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice remains unfazed by the false accusations against her and is as resolved as ever to keep serving the people at the helm of the judiciary,” she added.