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A deadly assault on the judiciary Featured

A deadly assault on the judiciary Image: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (Inquirer News)

He’s committed a lot of mistakes in the course of his presidency, but Rodrigo Duterte’s assault on the independence of the judiciary must be considered the worst, one that can have the direst of consequences if he does not stop.
Mr. Duterte and his minions in Congress seem hell bent on removing Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. It began with an impeachment complaint filed by an obscure lawyer before the House of Representatives, a complaint that many legal minds consider weak, if not fatally flawed.
This week, Malacanang showed the president’s true colors when it called for CJ Sereno to resign.
One columnist said it best. The palace has crossed a red line.
One reason cited by political analysts is that CJ Sereno will be a stumbling block to Mr. Duterte’s plan to install Bongbong Marcos as vice president as she will head the electoral tribunal to determine if the former senator and son of the late dictator has a valid case against incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo.
Aside from this, CJ Sereno has proven herself to be completely independent. She will not kowtow to Mr. Duterte as she knows full well that she is a co-equal to the president.
Mr. Duterte is the head of the executive department. CJ Sereno is the head of the judiciary. The legislative branch is headed by Senate President Koko Pimentel, who is little more than a puppet of the president.
If the impeachment of CJ Sereno pushes through, then the odds will be stacked against her since both the Senate President and the Speaker of the House will do anything to please their boss. If Mr. Duterte tells them to jump from the tallest building in the land, they will both ask him what attire they should wear.
Once Bongbong Marcos is installed as VP, Mr. Duterte can rightfully claim that he can now resign, seeing that his addiction to the dangerous drug fentanyl has already fried his brains.
What happens next is too ugly to think about. Of course, the majority of the people will never accept another Marcos presidency. There will be no more peaceful Edsa revolts. Instead, we can expect the communist underground to grow to unheard of levels. Ditto with the Muslim insurgency.
Worst of all, the armed forces, the academe, the business community, and civil society in general will also refuse to accept the former do-nothing senator as chief executive.
Unthinkable as it seems, a civil war is not an improbability.
I may be painting the bleakest possible scenario, but who knew before he was elected president that Mr. Duterte would wage a supposed drug war that only targets the poor? In so doing, he closed his eyes to abuses committed in the name of his drug war by the Philippine National Police.
How many EJKs have been committed by the PNP since Mr. Duterte assumed the presidency? The acceptable figure seems to be somewhere in the vicinity of 12,000.
As he was allowing mass murder to be committed by the police, the same president also appointed non-qualified, incompetent, and corrupt men and women to his official family.
We all know the saying: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mr. Duterte acts no differently from the late dictator Marcos, who became ruler of the Philippines because the legislative and judicial branches of government gave in to all his demands when martial law was declared.
As dictator, Marcos became the richest man in Asia. The wealth he stole is in the billions of dollars, and only a small fraction has been recovered by the government.
Now the Marcoses would have the Filipino people believe that the billions that they still have stashed away in various foreign countries is only there for safekeeping. And Mr. Duterte supports this impossibly audacious claim, to whitewash the sins of the Marcos family and to set the stage for the son and namesake of the despised dictator to assume the presidency.
The march towards civil war can still be stopped. All that’s needed is for a few good men – and women, in particular – to block the dangerous path that Rodrigo Duterte is now taking.
The legislative branch of government may be a lost cause, at least for now. But not the judiciary. The independence of the judiciary must be maintained at all cost to prevent another dictator from ruling and destroying the Philippines.
It starts with making sure that Ms. Sereno is not removed as chief justice.

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