Farce in the House
At long last, the impeachment hearings on Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno are ending. There is no doubt, and there was none from Day One, that the House of Representatives will impeach her.
As there is no doubt that the whole thing has been a farce, a witch hunt, and a complete waste of time, designed for one thing only: to please the President, who it seems has trouble accepting any criticism from intelligent women with independent minds. Leila de Lima was his first victim. Patricia Licuanan was his second. Sereno is his third, but she won’t go without a battle, which she still might win (I say this because I am fairly certain that the 23-person Senate has more brains and balls than its Lower Counterpart). Will Conchita Carpio Morales follow?
But let’s go back to Sereno. What did she do to earn his ire? Reader, don’t you remember? She dared write him a letter (quite respectfully) after he named seven judges as being drug personalities. To be fair, at the time he read the list, he said he wasn’t sure of its accuracy, but he would “take responsibility.”
And how accurate was that list? Sereno pointed out the following: One judge had been dismissed in 2007, or nine years before the President made his announcement. Another judge had been killed eight years before, purportedly by drug lords, so it is kind of hard to think that he was under their control. Four of the other judges had no jurisdiction over drug cases. So, only one of the seven had a relationship to drugs: He presided over the designated drugs court in Baguio.
She also expressed concern over their safety, their ability to continue with their work after the publicity, and gently reminded him that the Supreme Court was the sole entity that could discipline judges. To quote: “To safeguard the role of the judges as the protector of constitutional rights, I would caution them very strongly against ‘surrendering’ or making them physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly-issued warrant that is pending.”
It looks like Sereno wasn’t about to allow the President to practice any dictatorial tendencies. As gently as possible, she told him where to get off.
The President first publicly apologized to her, for which I lauded him, but his good behavior did not last long. He soon was telling her (the Chief Justice!) that she was wrong in telling the judges not to surrender without a warrant. Hadn’t she heard of “warrantless arrests”? I will not comment on this.
But what is remarkable is that even before impeachment charges were filed on Aug. 30, 2017, against Sereno by lawyer Larry Gadon (counsel of former president Gloria Arroyo, a Kilusang Bagong Lipunan senatorial candidate in 2016, and a great admirer of Ferdinand Marcos), President Duterte, on Aug. 22, criticized an unnamed government official for staying in luxury hotels. Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano is certain that the President was alluding to CJ Sereno, and that he already knew that impeachment charges would soon be filed.
Whether or not Alejano’s speculation is correct, the fact is that the President publicly, and with more colorful language (“She bled her client—the Filipinos—dry… Bakit ka bumili ng Land Cruiser? Luxury yan”), leveled the same charges at Sereno that Gadon did. Then he said he would keep his hands off. Hah! After the demolition was done.
I bring Alejano into the picture because he had filed impeachment charges against the President, which were dismissed out of hand as being insufficient in form and in substance. Alejano’s charges were based on newspaper articles, but so were Gadon’s, against Sereno. And Gadon’s were accepted.
Representatives Kaka Bag-ao and Carlo Zarate, at the beginning of the farce, predicted that it would end up a witch hunt, a fishing expedition to get more ammunition against Sereno. They were right. To make things worse, the hearings were essentially star-chamber proceedings because the House wanted Sereno to be present, and not use counsel, if she wished to cross-examine witnesses.
The President pillories her. The House accepts hearsay as legitimate charges, and then does not allow her to defend herself. A stupid, tragic, wasteful farce.
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