Philippine CJ faces ouster amid attack by Duterte

MANILA • The Philippine Supreme Court began hearing arguments yesterday on a government bid to invalidate the appointment of the court's top judge, whom President Rodrigo Duterte is calling an "enemy" who needs to be removed.

High court judges will decide on the merit of arguments for and against a petition, referred to as a "quo warranto", by the government's chief lawyer, for alleged violations in the appointment process for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The embattled judge, the country's first woman chief justice, is facing challenges on several fronts and is on a leave of absence to prepare for possible impeachment proceedings.

Mr Duterte makes no secret of his dislike of Judge Sereno, who appeared at a Supreme Court session in Baguio to defend herself against Solicitor-General Jose Calida's petition.

Judge Sereno has voted against several of Mr Duterte's controversial proposals, including extending martial law on a restive island and allowing late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in a cemetery for national heroes, but the President denies instigating two attempts to remove her.

The Chief Justice has until now refrained from blaming Mr Duterte, but questioned his intentions on Monday. "Mr President, if you have no hand in this, why did Solicitor-General Jose Calida, who reports to you, file the quo warranto?" she asked.

A furious Mr Duterte then lashed out at Judge Sereno and indicated he was ready to use his influence over the legislature to get rid of her. "I'm putting you on notice that I'm your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'Philippine CJ faces ouster amid attack by Duterte'. Print Edition | Subscribe