Rights group calls for judicial independence amid Sereno ouster

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The Solicitor General's petition to oust former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should have been junked outright, an associate justice said Friday.

The remaining eight justices however comprised the majority vote that ousted Sereno, making her the first impeachable official to be removed from office without a Senate trial.

"They took the exclusive job of the Senate, blatantly violated their oath to protect the constitution and destroyed the constitution", she said.

Sereno's dismissal was based on a quo warranto case filed before the SC which questioned her qualifications to head the tribunal for failing to file a document known as the statement of assets, liabilities and networth (Saln).

Minutes after the decision was announced, a smiling Sereno emerged from the Supreme Court building to tell her supporters, who had gathered in their thousands in the street, that the fight was not over. With that, I believe that they have the basis to do it.

"I will request the Congress, go into the impeachment right away", the president had said.

The Rules of Court define quo warranto as an action by the government against a person who unlawfully holds public office or holds a position which he/she is not qualified. But there are still some lawmakers calling for the impeachment to proceed independently from the Supreme Court. She is a past governor of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas. Let us respect its decision granting the quo warranto petition as the proper remedy and the quo warranto petition ruling against Chief Justice Ma.

The Philippine Supreme Court has voted to remove its top judge, whom President Rodrigo Duterte called an "enemy" for voting against controversial government proposals, citing alleged violations in the way she was appointed.

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In a statement, Cebu for Human Rights said: "Today, the Supreme Court lost its credibility".

"You can not issue a quo warranto to remove an impeachable official and the system that judges you should not be the one who accuses you". "All their decisions will be suspect". "If we don't wake up now, it will really be the death of democracy and sometimes history is cruel", Roman Catholic priest and protest leader Robert Reyes said outside the court. "We also ask the Supreme Court justices to reconsider their decision to prevent this constitutional crisis", the group added. "The constitutional process of impeachment is now dead". Six of Sereno's fellow justices testified against her in the hearings that started in September, exposing rifts in the high court.

"The respondent Chief Justice must be given the opportunity to file a Motion for Reconsideration". She has 15 days to do so.

"The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the law", presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

He said that the people "must be given time to review this decision".

Bacani insisted that the constitution is clear in saying that the chief justice, like the president, can only be removed through impeachment.

A "clique of magistrates" may have voted her out, said Sereno who added that this was "not the end but only a beginning".