More than half of the Philippine Senate asked the Supreme Court to review its decision to oust its chief justice, calling the ruling a "dangerous precedent" that infringed on constitutional powers of Congress to impeach senior officials.
Fourteen of the 23 senators yesterday signed the resolution, including eight who are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte. They are led by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who has said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno can only be removed through congressional impeachment.
Duterte has called for the ouster of Sereno, who has criticised his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs and naming in public of some judges he has linked to narcotics. The volatile president, however, said Wednesday that he "never lifted a finger" and was not involved in efforts to boot Sereno out of the country's highest court.
The Supreme Court's unprecedented expulsion of Sereno, based on a government petition, pre-empted an impeachment process that has been underway in Congress for months. The petition accused Sereno of failing to file her assets disclosures as a state university professor years ago, a charge she denies.
Critics have warned of a constitutional crisis if the legislature, specifically the Senate, insists that it has the sole constitutional power to remove Sereno if she is impeached by the House of Representatives and found guilty in a Senate trial.
In their resolution, the 14 senators said the 8-6 vote by the 15-member Supreme Court Friday "sets a dangerous precedent that transgresses the exclusive powers of the legislative branch to initiate, try and decide all cases of impeachment."
"The Senate recognises that the continued harmonious interdependence of these branches lies in the faithful adherence of each branch of government to the constitution," they said.
There was no immediate reaction from the Supreme Court. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has called for the court ruling to be respected. He said the Senate was not being deprived of its power because no articles of impeachment have been presented to it.
The House had been set to vote on impeachment charges accusing Sereno of corruption, breach of public trust and other crimes and then send them to the Senate. The Senate was preparing to turn itself into an impeachment court to try Sereno, who had gone on a two-month leave from the court to prepare for her defence.
In one of her strongest criticism of Duterte so far, Sereno called on the president yesterday to honour a pledge to resign if it can be proven that he had a hand in her removal from the court. She said Duterte himself called her an "enemy" and vowed to have her removed by Congress in a recent public outburst.
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