By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo has said that President Duterte’s comments against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno do not infringe on the independence of the Executive department’s co-equal branch.
Panelo issued the statement following reports that several lawyers’ groups have urged the United Nations to investigate efforts to unseat the embattled Chief Justice.
The lawyers, led by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, claimed that the Duterte administration is infringing on judicial independence as evidenced by his tirades against Sereno last week.
They also oppose the efforts to unseat her through the impeachment and quo warranto proceedings before the Congress and the Supreme Court.
According to Panelo, Duterte was simply reacting to the Chief Justice’s comments that the President has a hand on the efforts to unseat her.
“The statements of the President against Chief Justice Sereno are not an affront to judicial independence. They were simply reactions to Chief Justice Sereno’s voiced attacks against him,” he said.
According to Panelo, if there was anyone who was infringing the independence of a co-equal branch, it was Sereno.
“It is Chief Justice Sereno who has infringed and continues to infringe upon executive independence by resorting to the media and taking advantage of her position as head of one of the branches of the government in expressing her dismay against this administration on account of the situation in which she put herself into,” he said.
The Palace official said that the impeachment proceedings against Sereno are based on legal grounds and not a mere political attack led by Duterte to oust her from her position.
“The President did not initiate the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Sereno, nor did he play any part in the same,” Panelo said.