The Associated Press MANILA (AP) — The Philippine Supreme Court ousted its chief justice, a critic of the country’s authoritarian president, in an unprecedented vote Friday by fellow magistrates that she and hundreds of protesters called unconstitutional and a threat to democracy.
Court spokesman Theodore Te said eight of 14 justices voted to grant a petition by the government’s solicitor-general to remove Maria Lourdes Sereno from the 15-member tribunal for allegedly failing to file statements of assets and liabilities as required by law. Sereno denies the allegation and refused to participate in the vote.
Sereno has earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte by speaking up for the respect of law and human rights at a time he has led a brutal crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of suspects dead.
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.
Sereno is facing a separate impeachment bid in the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte’s allies. She has warned that the efforts by the Duterte administration to oust her are a threat to democracy, saying the petition that led to Friday’s vote violates the constitution, which stipulates that top officials like her can only be removed by impeachment.
“Respondent Maria Lourdes Sereno is now disqualified from and hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the chief justice,” Te told a news conference. Sereno was ordered to explain in 10 days why she should not be sanctioned for allegedly discussing the complaint against her in public and “for casting aspersions and ill-motive to the members of the Supreme Court.”Speech