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MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has labeled Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno as “corrupt” while claiming that he is experiencing a demolition job similar to the one launched against her predecessor Renato Corona.
Sereno was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III as chief justice after Corona was impeached and subsequently ousted for not declaring his peso and dollar accounts in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Sereno is now facing an impeachment complaint for her supposed failure to declare the P37 million professional fee she received as a private lawyer who represented the government in the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc (Piatco) case. Sereno’s camp has denied the accusation and has claimed that the chief justice “knows in conscience she did not do anything wrong.”
Duterte echoed the allegation against Sereno in a speech before lawyers in Davao City last Saturday.
“The Supreme Court is headed by—I’m not saying the membership, I have deep respect for the… Kilala ko…(I know them),” the president said.
“(But) if it’s headed by a corrupt, wala sa SALN diyan ‘yung Piatco na ‘yan. P**** i**** Piatco na nabalita ‘yan, the legal circle (the fees from the Piatco case was not in the SALN, it was news within the legal circle),” he added.
Twenty-five lawmakers endorsed Sereno’s impeachment, which was filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon. A third of the 293 members of the House of Representatives is needed to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, whose members will serve as trial judges.
Malacañang has said that Duterte would not meddle with the impeachment proceedings against Sereno because he respects the separation of powers.
Duterte compares self to Corona
Duterte accused Sereno of corruption as he is facing allegations that he has billions in undeclared bank accounts.
The president, who dismissed the accusations against him as “garbage,” said he is experiencing a demolition job similar to the one that targeted Corona a few years ago.
Supporters of Corona claimed that the previous administration used state resources to demonize and to oust the former chief justice.
“What happened to Corona is happening to me. You know, son of a b****, kung babain mo lang ako, bababa tayong lahat (If you drag me down, then we will all go down). Don’t give me that b******,” Duterte said.
“So there are lies based on baseless hundreds of millions and even if I wanted to steal, where will I get that amount?” he added.
The ombudsman previously said it would look into the allegation of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that Duterte has ill-gotten wealth. Duterte responded by announcing a plan to form a body that would probe the corruption in the anti-graft body.
Duterte dares Sereno, Morales: Resign with me
Duterte challenged Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to resign with him so they could all open the financial records of their agencies.
“I now challenge Carpio to resign with me at itong si Supreme Court justice,” the president said.
“I said, I challenge you two. Eh kami man nagpapagulo, nagpapagamit ‘yang dalawa eh (We are experiencing disorder and the two are allowing themselves to be used). Then, let’s resign,” he added.
“I challenge the two, we will go to Congress, in a simple ceremony, we sign the letter of resignation. Sige nga (Come on). Then let us open all the books.”
Duterte said he would allow the security forces to step in if they fail to reach an agreement.
“Who will decide? The Armed Forces and the police will decide it for us para hindi magkagulo-gulo itong bayan (so that the nation would not plunge into chaos),” he said.
“The Armed Forces knows this because I have money to the policemen who were charged before. I asked money from friends, help them because the ombudsman investigator is asking money from them.”
Duterte said he would order the military to make an inventory of the policeman soldiers who had to pay investigators in exchange for the dismissal of their cases.
“I will ask for the records and I will have analyzed, and I will talk to the policemen, I will talk to the generals, and I will talk to the people who were unjustly convicted. And I will encourage them to file a case. And when the time comes, if we cannot agree with each other, then let us decide to submit it to the Armed Forces kasi magkagulo tayo (because there will be chaos),” the president said. — Alexis Romero