The Supreme Court’s unprecedented and nefarious removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno constitutes a frontal assault on human rights protection and democratic rule.
The high court, by an 8-6 vote, approved a government-filed petition questioning the validity of Sereno’s appointment. But Sereno’s ouster was about much more. Last month, President Duterte declared Sereno an “enemy” and called for her impeachment over her criticism of his murderous “war on drugs” and other abusive policies.
Sereno, 57, is just the latest in a growing list of institutions and individuals — including Philippine media outlets and United Nations officials — that have been vilified by Mr. Duterte for seeking accountability for human rights violations. Mr. Duterte has sought to quash any meaningful inquiries into alleged crimes committed by police and their agents in the war on drugs that has killed thousands — a campaign the President has openly endorsed.
Sereno’s ouster also kicks open the door for wanton removal of members of other constitutional bodies, such as the Commission on Human Rights. Ultimately, the rejection of constitutional checks and balances concentrates power in the hands of Mr. Duterte and his allies, posing the greatest danger to democracy in the Philippines since the Marcos dictatorship.
CARLOS H. CONDE, researcher, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.