SC employees stage `Red Monday` anew, calls on Sereno to quit

MANILA -- Supreme Court (SC) officials and employees wore red clothes during Monday’s flag ceremony to reiterate their call for the resignation of Chief Justice-on leave Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Philippine Judges Association (PJA) president Judge Felix Reyes and SC Employees Association (SCEA) president Erwin Ocson were spotted wearing red.

In a statement, the SCEA said they held another 'Red Monday' protest to continue their call for change in the judiciary.

"This is to show our collective action to show the truth and pursue reform in the Supreme Court and the judiciary," the group stressed.

The organizations cited "demoralization" among their ranks and stressed that the impeachment proceedings against Sereno had placed the “entire judiciary in disrepute, thereby affecting the honor and integrity” of the magistrates and judges.

Oscon said they have other issues that have not been addressed by Sereno since she assumed the top judicial post in 2012, but he did not discuss them because of sub judice rule due to the pending quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against her before the SC.

“The real reason behind this are the acts and policies of the Chief Justice which really (adversely) affected the employees," he explained.

For his part, Reyes, said that their 1,200-strong group joined the call for Sereno's resignation after "looking at the big picture and what’s best for all of us."

Both PJA and SCEA have earlier issued a joint manifesto calling for resignation of Sereno "to give the entire judiciary the opportunity to move forward and get back to order."

Outside the SC, members of the Citizens' Crime Watch (CCW), a civil society group led by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio held a protest action and also called for Sereno's resignation.

Topacio asked the embattled top magistrate to resign before the SC rules on the quo warranto case for her own benefit.

Topacio stressed that only by resignation will Sereno be able to preserve her title as chief justice because should the High Court grant Calida's petition, her name from the records of chief justices would be removed from SC records.

"If she resigns instead, her name and position as chief justice will be preserved in the annals of judicial history. She gets to keep her portrait there in the Supreme Court as a former chief justice," the lawyer explained.

Topacio, chair of the CCW's legal committee, clarified that their resignation call against Sereno is nothing personal.

"We're not calling for her resignation just because we hate her. This is just part of the process. It would appear that she's not qualified and I believe that if the majority of her colleagues or her brethren in the Supreme Court finds it to be so, well it should be time for her to go," he pointed out.

IBP: Let Sereno defend herself in impeachment court

Meanwhile, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is hopeful that the Supreme Court will look into their arguments on their intervention in the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) seeking to nullify the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“We do not want to speculate with respect to the final voting of the Supreme Court on the quo warranto petition. The IBP is still hopeful that our arguments will be considered by the court and in our intervention, it is very clear that the Chief Justice will be given her day in the impeachment court,” IBP national president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo told reporters on Monday at the forum on the Philippine Justice System held at UP Diliman in Quezon City.

“We were still hopeful that we get the ruling in favor of impeachment, the superiority of the impeachment vs. quo warranto,” Fajardo, who filed for intervention last March asking the High Court to dismiss the quo warranto case against Sereno.

Fajardo warned that once the SC rules in favor of the quo warranto petition, it would become a basis to question the qualifications of every constitutional commissioner or all those who were appointed, including the Ombudsman.

“The IBP is always concerned by the rule of law. It is our advocacy that for the rule of law to prevail, the judiciary must be strengthened, not weakened. Of course, independence of the judiciary does not concern only one justice, or one chief justice. It concerns the entire judiciary. To keep the balance of the power of the government,” Fajardo added.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who also attended the forum, said the success of the quo warranto petition against Sereno can be the “final blow” to the ideal justice of the country.

She said it "weaponizes the courts and can be used as a weapon of intimidation, to kill dissent."

Robredo urged the public to fight for the judiciary, saying that the quo warranto case against Sereno is the public's fight.

“As your duly elected Vice President, I took an oath to defend the Constitution. You can count on me to do everything in my power to right this wrong, should it ever come pass.” Robredo said, who is keynote speaker at the said forum.

She has earlier said that the independence of the courts and the judicial system will be protected by the Supreme Court. That whatever the SC decides, will form a part of nation’s law and will have an impact on all the people moving forward.

Last April 10, the High Court held oral arguments on the quo warranto petition filed by the OSG against Sereno, which sought to nullify her appointment over her alleged non-filing of her SALN.

Sereno faced her probing colleagues at the Supreme Court in Baguio City last April 10, a first in Philippine history.

Sereno was even required by her colleagues to answer their questions under oath.

Acting Chief Justice and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said the SC is set to decide on the quo warranto petition filed by the OSG to nullify the appointment of Sereno over her alleged non-filing of SALN in May. (With reports from Red Andador and Elijah Mendoza OJT/PNA)