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Democracy under threat — Chief Justice

  • Written by AFP
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 276

THE Philippines’ Supreme Court chief justice warned on Monday that an attempt by allies of President
Rodrigo Duterte to impeach her could threaten the country’s democracy.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno gave the warning as legislators in the House of
Representatives prepared to begin impeachment hearings against her following a threat by Duterte that
Sereno would be forced out.
    
Sereno has been one of the few voices willing to criticize Duterte for allegedly disregarding
due process and attacking other branches of government as part of his brutal anti-crime campaign.
    
Duterte in turn vowed last month to impeach Sereno for alleged corruption. His allies in
Congress will begin hearings on the impeachment complaint this week.
    
“This is getting to be larger than myself. This is no longer just about me. It is about
democracy,” Sereno told broadcaster ABS-CBN in a live interview.
    
She said the charges against her were fabricated and warned that the judiciary would be under
threat if the Duterte government was allowed to pursue her.
    
“Is the judiciary safe? And if the judiciary is not safe, is democracy safe? Are the
constitutional rights of people still assured?” she asked.
    
Earlier this year Duterte’s arch-critic, Senator Leila De Lima, was arrested on charges of
drug trafficking and is behind bars awaiting trial.
    
De Lima insists the charges were trumped up to silence her. Rights groups and European
lawmakers call her a political prisoner.
    
Duterte has also called for the impeachment of government Ombudsman Conchita Morales after her
office began investigating allegations that Duterte had secret bank accounts containing millions in
embezzled funds.
    
Elected last year on a promise to wage a bloody war on drugs, Duterte has been accused of
tolerating human rights abuses and ignoring the rule of law as he pursues suspected drug users.
    
The government says almost 4,000 “drug personalities” have been killed by authorities as part
of Duterte’s campaign but critics say thousands more have died at the hands of government-backed
vigilantes.
    
Duterte enjoys widespread support and his allies control both houses of Congress.
    
But concern is growing that he is seeking to monopolise power through his attacks on
independent branches of government.