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Sereno backs down

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno decided yesterday not to comment anymore on the criticisms aired against her by President Duterte in connection with her letter on judges allegedly involved in illegal drugs.

“Many things have been said. The Chief Justice sees no need to add to what are being said,” SC spokesman Theodore O. Te said in an interview with journalists.

Last Sunday, the President named seven trial court judges who are allegedly involved in the proliferation of illegal drugs. He named the judges.

It turned out that three of the seven judges are no longer members of the Judiciary.

In response, the Chief Justice sent a letter to the President last Monday branding the announcement as premature.

Sereno also said in her letter: “To safeguard the role of the judges as the protector of constitutional rights, I would caution them very strongly against ‘surrendering’ or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly-issued warrant of arrest that is pending.

“With all due respect, Mr. President, we were caught unprepared by the announcement. It would matter greatly to our sense of constitutional order, if we were given the chance to administer the appropriate preventive measures without the complications of a premature public announcement.”

Reacting to the letter, the President warned the Chief Justice against creating a constitutional crisis over the government’s anti-drugs campaign, lest he would declare Martial Law to resolve the problem.

In a speech during his visit to Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro last Tuesday, the President said: “Go ahead and try to stop me. Would you rather that I declare martial law?”

“Let’s us not kid each other ma’am (referring to the Chief Justice), and do not force the issue,” he said. “You do not warn me, I warn you. I can order everyone in the Executive department not to honor you,” he added.
(Rey G. Panaligan)