Davide: It would be 'hell' for PH if women critics are ousted

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. condemned efforts to unseat women critical of the government in the wake of another controversial statement made by the President against women.

Davide recalled moves to oust former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, detained Senator Leila de Lima, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, referring to them as the "Tres Marias" who opposed some of President Rodrigo Duterte's policies.

"If the Tres Marias will be out of government service, that for me would really be hell for the Philippines," Davide said in an event at the Ateneo de Manila University which he attended along with Sereno, the first Chief Justice to be ousted by the Supreme Court.

"Our Constitution expressly provides the equality before the law of women and men. Note that 'women' comes first," Davide added.

He was asked about Duterte's remarks Thursday that the next Chief Justice "could not be a politician, lalo na hindi babae [especially not a woman]."

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he will clarify this statement with the President, but noted that Duterte cannot just "block anyone out from thin air" because it would be the Judicial and Bar Council that will screen the applicants.

He maintained there is no discrimination in the Duterte government.

Duterte will appoint the next Chief Justice after the Supreme Court on May 11 ousted Sereno over her alleged non-filing of statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) before applying for the top magistrate post in 2012. Sereno has until May 26 to appeal the landmark decision.

Duterte also gets to name the next Ombudsman as Morales is set to retire this July.

Who are the Tres Marias?

In October 2017, Duterte said impeachment proceedings against Sereno and Morales were underway, after accusing them of corruption.

During that time the House Committee on Justice was already hearing an impeachment case against Sereno. No other impeachment rap was lodged, but the government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida in March 2018 slapped Sereno with a quo warranto petition, a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged.

Duterte had declared himself an enemy of Sereno after she insisted on his involvement in the quo warranto case, saying Calida should be following orders from a superior.

Despite threats of an impeachment case, none was filed against Morales, whose nephew Maneses Carpio is married to Duterte's eldest daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte. Despite the relation, she butted heads with the President when her office defied a Malaca¤ang order to suspend Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang as he looked into Duterte's alleged hidden wealth.

De Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte, is under detention for drug charges at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center. The senator maintains her innocence, as local and international human rights groups slam her arrest as an attempt to silence Duterte's critics.

Vice President Leni Robredo is also an opposition figure who resigned from the Duterte Cabinet in December 2016 after being asked to desist from attending all meetings.

CNN Philippines' Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.