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Philippine chief justice stands up to Duterte

MANILA (UCAN): “We are not destined for slavery but to freedom. What is evil, we denounce; what is good, we affirm,” Maria Lourdes Sereno, the chief justice of the Philippines said amid moves to impeach her from the Supreme Court. 
She accused the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, of orchestrating her ouster and preventing her from testifying in an impeachment trial.
Sereno called out the government for persecuting her for protecting the judiciary from the abuse of power Rodrigo Duterte in his bloody war on drugs which has resulted in the killing of thousands of suspected drug users and dealers according to human rights groups.
In a speech at Araw ng Kagitingan (day of valour) event organised by the Movement Against Tyranny on April 9, Sereno challenged Duterte to prove that he has nothing to do with the ouster moves against her.
“His spokesperson will say again that he has nothing to do with it. But Filipinos are smart, they understand what is happening,” she said.
She refuted critics’ claims of extravagance, which has been used as basis for moves to oust her.
Sereno expressed confidence that she would have the opportunity to defend herself before an impeachment court.
In her strongest speech since Congress started impeachment proceedings against her, Sereno appealed to Church leaders to assume “prophetic roles” and fight evil.
Sereno said she would “not bow to the powers that be,” adding that there are people who urged her to “just bow temporarily” to stop the moves against her.
“I cannot, I must retain the ability to look at every citizen in the eye and say fight on with courage, hang on to your principles, never yield, never give up,” Sereno said.
Reacting to the chief justice’s statement, Duterte ordered Congress to speed up the impeachment proceedings.
“I am putting you on notice that I am your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court,” he said in a speech late on April 9.
“I will not hesitate to do what is in the best interests of my country. If it calls for your forced removal, I will do it,” Duterte said.
The Lower House is expected to vote on a committee report recommending Sereno’s impeachment when Congress reconvenes in the middle of May.
If at least one-third of the House votes to accept the committee report, Sereno will be deemed impeached. 
Aside from the impeachment proceedings in Congress, the chief justice is also set to face her fellow justices on April 10 to defend herself and convince the court not to remove her.
The Supreme Court stands to decide on a petition filed by the solicitor general, José Calida, to remove Sereno from office for alleged involvement in anomalies, including the non-submission of required annual statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. 

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