Philippines' top court ousts Duterte-critic chief justice

Sereno is the first chief justice to be removed by her peers and the second top judge to lose the position after her predecessor was impeached for non-disclosure of wealth.

"It is not my personal interest or actual bias but the common interest of every incumbent Member of the Court to find the truth in whether or not respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno has the integrity to qualify her to hold the highest position in the Judiciary", De Castro said. Sonny Angara suggested that the narrow 8-6 vote on the quo warranto petition could still be subject to change as "it shows a divided court on a very important constitutional issue". Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who presided over the impeachment trial of CJ Renato Corona, fears another painful outcome of Ms. Sereno's removal from the Supreme Court: Would she be made to refund the government in the form of her salaries as chief justice going back to 2012?

"The ouster of our chief justice - this foundation of democracy, this shield against abuse of power in government - has crumbled", it said in a statement.

In separate interviews, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, a staunch ally of the Duterte administration, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon pointed out that after the SC decision, it appeared that the House of Representatives would no longer elevate the impeachment case against Sereno to the Senate.

The President also instructed his allies in the House to hasten Sereno's ouster, saying that she is not deserving to serve the top post in the Supreme Court as she is "bad for the Philippines".

About 1,800 protesters gathered to support Sereno outside the court in Manila, where anti-riot police blocked an access road with trucks and iron railings to maintain order and separate a smaller group of anti-Sereno demonstrators.

Once an independent judge like Sereno is ousted, "there will be no more balance of power".

Sereno told the crowd: "Let's continue to defend the constitution and fight wrongdoing".

Opposition parties denounced Sereno's removal.

Pangilinan, who heads the opposition Liberal Party, says "what the majority in the Supreme Court did was a mockery of the constitution". She could then make her own prophecy come true, that a barrage of quo warranto cases will henceforth tie up the judiciary in a tangle of back-and-forths, by questioning any Duterte appointee's qualifications and demanding proof of their SALN.

De Castro is one of the eight justices who voted to grant Calida's quo warranto petition on Friday, which effectively unseats Sereno from her office.

In October past year, Duterte dared Sereno to open her bank account to public scrutiny, accusing her of corruption and of being used by his political opponents.

  • Rogelio Becker