VP Robredo backs Sereno in fight against ouster petition

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Vice President Leni Robredo (L) and former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 7) — Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday backed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno against the ouster case filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

"The quo warranto case against the Chief Justice is not just her fight. It is our fight... We will not go quiet into the night. We will always fight for what is right," she said at "Free the Courts! A Forum on the Philippine Justice System" at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City.

Robredo added, "I took an oath to defend the Constitution. You can count on me to do everything in my power to right this wrong."

She said, as the second-highest elected official, it is her duty to uphold the rule of law amid threats against the country's democratic institutions.

"The quo warranto case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, should it succeed, can be the final blow to the ideal of justice we all depend on... It weaponizes the courts and if we allow it, a quo warranto can be used as a weapon of intimidation, to kill dissent," she said.

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.

Calida wanted the Supreme Court to unseat Sereno over her alleged failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) for ten years, before she applied for the Chief Justice post in 2012.

The Supreme Court will decide Sereno's fate before the end of May, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has said. CNN Philippines sources said the voting is expected to take place on May 17. A majority vote — or eight out of 14 if all justices are present — would grant the quo warranto petition to oust Sereno.

Robredo said now is not the time to keep silent, especially because there is a grave threat against the institution that is meant to protect the public.

"Kailangan natin isantabi ang ating takot at ipaglaban ang ating hudikatura, dahil ito ay itinatag upang bigyang-proteksyon ang ordinaryong mamamayan, hindi upang maging sandata ng mga nasa kapangyarihan," she said.

[Translation: We need to set aside our fears and fight for the judiciary. It was created to protect the public, and not to be abused by those in power.]

The embattled Chief Justice Sereno, who has been on leave at the request of her colleagues, had asked the high court to dismiss the quo warranto petition. She stressed that impeachment is the only way to remove a Chief Justice from office, asking lawmakers to "give me my day in the Senate impeachment court."

Sereno has shared strong sentiments against the quo warranto petition.

"From out of nowhere, naka-imbento ng teorya na wawasakin ang  (they invented a theory that would destroy the) one-year prescription rule, ang (the) impeachment as the exclusive means of removing an impeachable officer," she said in April.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines does not want to speculate on the final voting of the SC. But its President, Abdiel Dan Fajardo, said they are still hopeful that its arguments in the intervention filed before the Supreme Court will be considered.

The IBP's intervention states that the Chief Justice should be given her day in the impeachment court. But if the Supreme Court grants the quo warranto, Sereno can still file an appeal.

"Normally all parties are given 15 days from receipt of the decision if we wish to file a motion for reconsideration with the SC," Fajardo said.

CNN Philippines' Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report