Supreme Court (SC) officials and employees wore red clothes during Monday’s flag ceremony as they called for unity and for the public to respect the magistrates’ ruling on the quo warranto case against ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The Philippine Judges Association (PJA), Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE), Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA), and Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees (SCALE) expressed confidence in the magistrates, as they stressed the decision must be respected by regardless of one’s view on the case and also insist the High Court mandate and authority to decide the case.
“Kaming mga huwes ng mababang hukuman at mga opisyal at kawani ng Hudikatura ay nananawagan sa sambayanang Pilipino na huminahon, maging mapayapa at pumanatag ang loob sa kabila ng pagpasiya kamakailan ng Kataas-taasang Hukuman… Nagsalita na po ang Korte Suprema. Tanggapin po natin ito nang may buong paggalang at respeto, at sa pamamagitan ng pagsunod sa itinatadhana nito. Tumalima po tayo sa rule of law (We the judges of lower courts, officials and employees of the judiciary call on the Filipino people to exercise restraint and keep calm in relation to the recent decision of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has spoken. Let us accept it with respect and let us comply with what it said. Let’s all uphold the rule of law),” SCEA president Erwin Ocson read the statement of the group, after the flag ceremony.
“The interpretation and application of the Constitution, laws and rules exclusively belong to the Supreme Court. Not to the Executive Department. Not to Congress. Not to media. Not to the practicing lawyers and law students. Not to the clergy. Not even to the people. And the Justices of the Court must be free to decide impartially, in accordance with the proven facts and the applicable law, inspired solely by their knowledge of the law and the dictates of their conscience, without regard to what the people may desire, and without fear of reprisal, intimidation, threats of impeachment, corrupting influence of political groups and other unworthy motives. This is the real essence of judicial independence,” said the statement signed by PJA President Judge Felix Reyes, PACE President Atty. Maria Fe Maloloy-On, SCEA President, and SCALE President Atty. Rene B. Enciso and was read by Ocson.
The group also lauded the 14 magistrates of the high court for their “intelligence, bravery and courage” and expressed support for their stand.
Among the magistrates who were present during Monday’s flag-raising ceremony were Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Mariano Del Castillo, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr., and Noel Tijam.
Outside the SC premises, various groups staged a “unity march” in support of the Supreme Court (SC) ruling.
The Citizen’s Crime Watch (CCW), Sereno Resign and Oust (SRO), Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), and Puwersang Pilipino led by Atty. Ferdinand Topacio said they are one with the high court in upholding its constitutional mandate to rule on the Office of the Solicitor General’s ouster petition against Sereno.
Topacio said criticisms hurled at the high court ruling come from a “minority.”
“Pinakikita po namin, unang una, na ang tunay na damdamin po ng taumbayan at hindi yung isinisigaw ng illan na pinu-politicize ang issue.Kami po ay gumagalang sa desisyon ng Korte Suprema. Ginagalang po namin ang Saligang Batas (First of all, we only show the true feelings of the people and not the others who cry out loud to politicize the issue. We respect the decision of the Supreme Court. We respect the Constitution),” Topacio told reporters.
The groups put up red banners in front of the high court calling on the public to “Respect the Constitution.”
Sereno and her supporters have repeatedly criticized the quo warranto ruling, accusing those who voted in favor of it of bias and engaging in politics following President Rodrigo Duterte’s public pronouncements against her.
But the PJA, PACE, SCEA, and SCALE said that while the freedoms of speech and free expression are constitutionally protected, these must not be exercised beyond legal limits.
“Lubos po naming kinikilala ang malayang pamamahayag ng bawat isa, ngunit ang lahat ng mga ito ay may hangganan. Hindi po kasama dito ang pananakot, pambabastos, panghihiya ng mga mahistrado at tila pag-aaklas upang pahinain ang kabuuan ng Korte Suprema (We fully acknowledge the freedom of speech of each other, but all of these have limitations. It does not include the threats, harassment and humiliation against the magistrates and the attempt to weaken the whole Supreme Court.),” the group said in a statement.
The groups vowed to fight attempts to “weaken the Supreme Court.”
“Amin pong lalabanan ang lahat ng pagtatangka ninoman upang ito ay hatiin, pahinain o buwagin. Kami ay susulong at patuloy na susulong sa harap ng mga pagsubok dulot ng nagdaang desisyon (We will fight everybody’s attempts to divide it, weaken or disintegrate. We will advance and continue to face of the trials caused by the previous decision),” the group said.
“Irespeto, igalang at tanggapin natin ang naging desisyon ng Korte Suprema, at magiging desisyon nito sa motion for reconsideration, at hayaan ang kasaysayan ang humusga sa magiging pangkalahatan at kahuli-hulihang pagpapasiya nito (Respect and accept the decision of the Supreme Court and the decision for the motion for reconsideration let history be the judge for the people),” it added.
The high court on May 11 granted the Office of the Solicitor General’s (OSG) quo warranto plea, finding Sereno to have unlawfully held the Chief Justice post and exercising the functions and powers of the office.
The case stemmed from Sereno’s non-filing of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) for eleven years during her stint at the University of the Philippine’s College of Law and her failure to comply with the Judicial and Bar Council’s mandatory requirement for submission of ten SALNs for applicants to the top judicial post in 2012.
Sereno has 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration. Should she fail to do so, the decision becomes final and the JBC can then open the period of applications and nominations for the Chief Justice post. (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan, Philippine News Agency)