Sereno ouster leads to ‘overall deterioration’ of PH rule of law – int’l group
An international organization composed of judges, lawyers, and academicians said on Thursday that the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has contributed in the “overall deterioration” of the rule of law in the Philippines.
“Her removal, through the contrivance of a judicial ruling by a sharply divided Court, adds to the perception that the government institutions are unable or unwilling to safeguard the rule of law, and will attack the institutions that protect it,” the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a statement.
ICJ is an international non-government organization composed of senior judges, attorneys, and academics dedicated to ensuring respect for international human rights standards through the law.
ICJ, through its Asia Pacific Director Frederick Rawski, said Sereno’s removal came at the heels of a series of public statements by President Rodrigo Duterte, one of which was when he called her his “enemy” and rooted for her elimination from the Supreme Court.
“Preserving the independence of the judiciary in the Philippines is crucial at a time when the government is credibly alleged to have been engaged in widespread and systematic human rights violations, amounting to crimes under international law,” Rawski said.
On Wednesday, Sereno filed a motion for reconsideration seeking to reverse the May 11 decision granting the quo warranto petition filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government’s principal lawyer.
In her motion, Sereno asked SC court justices “to do what is right and just.”
“Basic, fundamental and longstanding constitutional and legal rules and principles, and settled judicial precedents were ignored, set aside and reversed by the majority decision to achieve one end—the disqualification and ouster of the Chief Justice,” she noted in her petition.
The ICJ urged the country’s high tribunal to consider the motion filed by the ousted chief justice.
“Given the perception of political interference and the potential impact of this case on the credibility as a whole, it is imperative that the country swiftly and fairly consider the chief justice’s motion for reconsideration,” the ICJ said.
The group added that the May 11 ruling could open the floodgates to similar attacks, not only against members of the court but also to members of other bodies such as the Commission on Human Rights.
The ICJ said the Philippine Supreme Court should “take care to ensure that any proceedings are conducted in line with the highest standards of judicial ethics, as reflected in the international standards such as the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct.”
It then reminded the government that under international standards – including the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary – the judiciary, including individual judges, must be able to conduct itself without “improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect… for any reason.” /kga
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