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Wednesday , June 20, 2018

Wenceslao: Danger signs

I ALREADY pointed this out in a previous column: railroading an impeachment trial whose proceedings are covered live by traditional media and followed in social media would be dangerous for the railroaders. We already saw that in the impeachment trial of former president Joseph Estrada when the mere non-opening of an envelope led to Estrada’s ouster in what was called Edsa 2 or People Power 2.

This is probably what those strategizing the moves against Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno have realized. We have seen how the committee on justice of the House of Representatives did succeed in raking muck against Sereno but failed to show evidence she committed impeachable offenses. While the committee and even the House of Representatives can get away with railroading Sereno’s impeachment, things would be considerably different during the trial.

This is probably the reason why efforts have been waged to force Sereno to resign before the eventual impeachment trial could begin. While they are preparing for the trial, they are also putting pressure on Sereno to raise the white flag.

Or why would Solicitor General Jose Calida file a quo warranto petition with the Supreme Court against Sereno more than five years after her appointment by then president Noynoy Aquino was cemented? The move looks like a long shot but considering the split among the associate justices it was, for the anti-Sereno strategists in the Duterte administration, worth taking. But will the associate justices allow their personal biases to be manipulated to force Sereno out early?

The protest actions launched by some Supreme Court associate justices, judges and employees fit snugly into this strategy. It is obvious a hand is behind the launching of the protest actions nationwide although the effort is only mildly succeeding. Those calling for Sereno’s resignation seems to be a noisy minority in the judiciary. This early some judges and court employees are calling instead for “judicial independence,” which means not kowtowing to any political faction.

In the meantime, the leadership of the House of Representatives is taking its own sweet time in formally ruling on Sereno’s impeachment. Using the quo warranto petition as reason, the House’s impeachment railroad has momentarily been deserted. The congressmen are apparently hoping Sereno would resign before the articles of impeachment could be sent to the Senate. Unfortunately for them, she is digging in.

I think, and I hope I am not wrong on this, only few associate justices are blinded by their hatred of Sereno, which would mean that the quo warranto petition would eventually be dismissed. Meanwhile, those resignation calls would go unheeded. Meaning that the impeachment trial is inevitable. That trial would once again test the fabric of the nation. And for the Duterte administration, it would be a challenge.

While for sometime the Duterte administration has largely been able to force public approval, no matter how grudging, of its controversial decisions and actions, railroading Sereno’s impeachment trial would be different, thus the hesitance to go in that direction. In the proceedings, the danger signs are everywhere.


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