Sereno warns judiciary vs dangers of 'deadly, malevolent' quo warranto petition

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 11) — Embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday warned the judiciary against the dangers a quo warranto petition may bring.

"When the administration changes, then every sitting justice who lacks a documentary requirement that the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council) has in its discretion waived knowingly can nevertheless be removed if the Supreme Court grants the quo warranto petition against me," Sereno said in a speech at a forum of the Philippine Bar Association, a lawyers' group.

"That is how deadly, how malevolent this petition is. It is unparalleled in the evil that it will bring upon the country," she added.

The quo warranto, a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged, was filed by the government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida. He wants the Supreme Court to void Sereno's appointment as chief justice over her alleged failure to file Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth for 10 years, before she applied for the Chief Justice post in 2012.

Sereno on Tuesday faced the Supreme Court on her ouster petition. She clarified issues on her SALN before her colleagues, and said these were not required under the JBC rules of integrity.

She said any private practitioner going against the government will be at a disadvantage, because the Solicitor General could file a quo warranto petition against the judge for which they are both appearing.

"You cannot persevere with all zeal your client's cause, because that is already prejudiced by the fact that your adversary will always have a sword of Damocles over the entire judiciary," she said, citing a looming threat over the judiciary.

The Chief Justice then called on the judiciary to "stand with courage" amid proceedings in the executive and legislative departments.

"We must stand for the constitutional rights of the people. We must stand for the Constitution, even at great peril to ourselves, but we will be rendered inutile if the Solicitor General at any time, even the last year before we retire, can oust us," Sereno said.

Sereno's camp has repeatedly said the Chief Justice can only be removed from office through impeachment.

President Rodrigo Duterte has also declared Sereno his enemy, after her remarks questioning the President's role in the ouster petition.