Sereno: 'We won' despite ouster as Chief Justice

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — A serene yet spirited Maria Lourdes Sereno faced her distraught supporters on Friday, minutes after the majority of Supreme Court justices voted to remove her as Chief Justice.

Sereno consoled her supporters, saying they have won the fight despite her ouster.

"Kung tutuusin, panalo po tayo… Ang araw na ito ay hindi kabiguan, kung hindi isang tagumpay sapagkat ipinakita niyo na kayo ay nasa panig ng katotohanan laban sa makapangyarihan," she said.

[Translation:If you think about it, we won… This is not a loss. This is a victory because you have shown that you are on the side of truth in the fight against the powerful]

In a landmark ruling Friday, eight justices voted to grant Solicitor General Jose Calida's quo warranto petition to disqualify Sereno as Chief Justice. She said, out of the eight who voted for her removal, she has asked for the inhibition of six justices for their "manifested actual bias" against her, which means only two of her peers voted to unseat her.

Sereno added the dismissal votes by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa prove she is on the right side of justice.

"Inaalis ako sa pwesto, ngunit ang anim na boto na ako ay dapat manatili ay patunay na tama ang aking paninindigan," the former Chief Justice said.

[Translation: I was ousted, but the six who voted for me to stay shows my principles are right.]

Sereno reiterated the process used to unseat her is unconstitutional as a Chief Justice may only be removed from office through impeachment.

"Ito po ay una sa ating kasaysayan na inalis ng mayorya ng Korte Suprema ang isa sa kanilang kasamahan. Inangkin nila ang tanging karapatan ng Senado. Tahasang nilabag ang sinumpaang tungkulin na pag-ingatan ang Saligang Batas at winasak ang hudikatura," she said.

[Translation: This is the first in our history that the Supreme Court majority ousted one of their peers. They took the Senate's job. They violated their call to protect the judiciary and the Constitution.]

The decision to unseat Sereno did not sit well with senators. The Senate was supposed to stand as an impeachment court for Sereno after the House of Representatives transmitted the articles of her pending impeachment case.

Sereno said the fight does not stop with her ouster, rather this is just the beginning of a much-larger fight against those who threaten the country's democracy.

"Ito ay tungkol sa demokrasya na muling inagaw sa atin… Ang araw na ito ang araw ng paglaban. Ang araw na ito ay hindi katapusan, kung hindi simula lamang," she said.

[Translation: This is for the democracy that's taken away from us. This is the day to fight. This is not the end, but this is just the start.]

Sereno urged the public to express dissent and uphold the rule of law.

"Ito ay tungkol sa demokrasya na muling inagaw sa atin… Habang tumitindig tayo para sa matuwid, hindi tayo kailanman magiging talunan. Hindi na tayo maaaring manatiling tahimik dahil ang pananahimik ay katumbas ng pagiging kasabwat sa kanilang pang-aabuso," Sereno said.

[Translation: If we stand up for what is right, we will never lose. We cannot stay silent because keeping quiet is equal to tolerating abuse.]

Her camp is considering filing an appeal to overturn the Supreme Court justices' vote to remove her from her post. Her legal counsel, Josa Deinla, said the close vote of the Supreme Court justices gives them hope the motion of reconsideration they plan to file will prosper.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines also plans to file a motion for reconsideration.

The Supreme Court gave the Sereno camp 15 days to appeal the decision.

Calida, the government's top lawyer, in March slapped Sereno with a quo warranto petition, a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged. He said Sereno repeatedly failed to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), which is one of the requirements for those applying for the Chief Justice post.