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Published: Mon, May 14, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

President Duterte's critic Maria Sereno removed as Philippine chief justice

President Duterte's critic Maria Sereno removed as Philippine chief justice

"We also ask the Supreme Court justices to reconsider their decision to prevent this constitutional crisis", the group added. The justices ruled on a petition filed by Manila's solicitor general, who had sought her disqualification on charges that she had failed to publicly disclose her true net worth.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam, the SC said Sereno "is found disqualified from and hereby adjudged guilty of exercising the office of the Chief Justice".

Sereno is the first Philippine chief justice removed from position not by impeachment. "The Supreme Court exposed itself as a willing tool in undermining judicial independence because they had an ax to grind against the Chief Justice", Bayan said in a statement.

In a statement, Cebu for Human Rights said: "Today, the Supreme Court lost its credibility". "The constitutional process of impeachment is now dead". "Despite this setback, let us not lose our confidence in our democracy".

"There is a bigger battle ahead and we are put in this place to fight again", she said.

"The Supreme Court, a co-equal branch of government, is duty-bound to uphold the Constitution".

Novero claimed that there is "politics involved" in coming up with the ruling.

He added that Sereno should likewise be given the chance to appeal the ruling. The House still had to vote in the plenary, but made a decision to wait out the results of the Supreme Court vote.

He emphasized that in impeachment, the SC can not be supreme "because the Senate is the one and only impeachment court" and the only way to remove the Chief Justice is for the House to impeach her and for the Senate to convict.

The House Justice Committee said in March there was probable cause to impeach Sereno, accusing her of corruption, breach of public trust and other serious crimes.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a key ally of Duterte, agreed with Sereno and urged the Supreme Court to review its decision, saying it's "not infallible in everything". Six of Sereno's fellow justices testified against her in the hearings that started in September, exposing rifts in the high court.

Sereno, the first woman to hold the top post in the judiciary, was supposed to stay in her post until her retirement at age 70 in 2030. She presided over the proceedings Friday, but abstained from voting.

"The decision is immediately executory without further need of action from the court", Te said, adding the vote was 8-6 against Sereno.

Government critics say the sacking of Sereno poses a grave threat to the nation's democracy, and is part of a wider campaign by Duterte to destroy anyone he perceives as a foe, and create "one-man rule" in the Philippines.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said that it's a "sad day for the separation of power and democratic system". "In impeachment matters, the Supreme Court is not supreme, because the Senate is the one and only impeachment court", Pimentel said in a statement he sent to reporters this afternoon.

The president last month urged lawmakers to "fast-track" Sereno's removal, warning that otherwise "I'll do it for you".

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