“I will not resign.”
This is what Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said on Monday, March 12, after her colleagues issued a joint manifesto demanding her to step down from her post.
In a speech on Monday at the University of Philippines Diliman, Sereno vowed to fight the impeachment case against her to the end as she refused to give in to calls for her resignation.
“I am determined to wage ‘til the logical end of this battle started by those who seek to undermine the Constitution and the judiciary. I am resolute in carrying on the good and noble fight for judicial independence. I will finish the course of this thorny race,” she said.
While admitting that “resignation is the easier option,” the chief justice stressed that she prefers to do the “right” thing: to face the impeachment trial.
“I do not doubt that resignation is the easier option, allowing the weight of the Office of the Chief Justice to be immediately lifted off my shoulders, freeing me to pursue and enjoy many things that ordinary citizens do. It will end the unrelenting attacks against my person, my staff and other court officials,” she pointed out.
She continued, “But I do not make choices in life on the basis of what is the easier option but what is the right thing to do. And without the slightest doubt, the right thing to do is to fight this impeachment to the end.”
Sereno further noted that succumbing to others’ demands for her to step down “will only serve to erode the independence of the Supreme Court (SC) and embolden those who demand a subservient judiciary.”
“To do so would invite the kind of extra-constitutional adventurism that treats legal rights and procedures as mere inconveniences that should be set aside when it suits the powers that be,” she added.
Earlier on the same day, groups of judges and employees of the high court issued a joint manifesto urging Sereno to vacate from her post.
During the flag ceremony at the SC, president of Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA) Erwin Ocson implored Sereno to resign “for her sake and the sake of the Filipino people.”
“Kami po ay nananawagan para na rin po sa kapakanan ng buong sambayanang Pilipino na kayo po ay bumaba na sa pwesto at magbitiw bilang punong mahistrado o chief justice (We are calling for you to step down as Chief Justice for the sake of all Filipinos),” Ocson said.
Among the groups who signed the manifesto include the Philippine Judges’ Association (PJA), Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE), and Sandiganbayan Employees’ Association (SBEA). Their members who support the call for Sereno’s resignation wore red during the ceremony.
Ocson went on to say, “The impeachment proceedings in recent months have put the Judiciary in dispute, thereby affecting the honor and integrity of each justices, judges, officials, and rank and file personnel.”
“Court officials have been pitted against each other, resulting in a distressing atmosphere,” he added.
‘Have some delicadeza’
In a separate message to Sereno, lawyer Larry Gadon said the top magistrate should have “delicadeza” and just step down.
Addressing Sereno, Gadon said, “Sana ay magkaroon ka naman ng ‘delicadeza’ at kahihiyan at dignidad sa sarili mo (You should have ‘delicadeza’ and shame and dignity for herself).”
He pointed out: “Ikaw ang pinuno ng bahay, pinapalayas ka. Ikaw ang pinuno ng pamilya, pero tinataboy ka. Ano pa bang mukha ang pinapakita mo nun (You are the head of the house but they’re asking you to leave. You are the head of the family but they’re pushing you away. Do you still have the face to meet them)?”
It was Gadon who filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno. Gadon accused her of culpable of violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes.
Among the grounds for impeachment Gadon cited in his complaint include her alleged misdeclaration of Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), bypassing the en banc, and delaying the benefits of retired SC personnel.
With members of the judiciary calling for the Chief justice’s resignation, Gadon recommended Sereno to just resign. “Papasok ka pa ba sa opisina mo na alam na alam mo na lahat ng tao doon ay sinusuka ka (Will you still go to your office even though you everyone is vomiting you out)?”
“Kaya kung ako sa kanya, magresign nalang siya para matapos na rin ang lahat ng ito, hindi na tayo mapagod lahat at para din makapahinga siya dahil (That’s why if I were her, I would just resign to end everything, and so that we all won’t get tired because) I’m sure she is really bothered with this case,” he said.