Sereno asks Duterte to resign

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to resign.

In a strongly worded speech Thursday, Sereno responded to Duterte's earlier remark that he would resign if anyone can prove his involvement in Sereno's ouster.

"Pwes Ginoong Pangulo, magresign ka na (Well, Mr. President, resign now)," Sereno said at an event by lawyer groups, pointing to the President's earlier comments that gave him away.

"Galing sa kanyang bibig ang pag-amin na siya ang nagpasimula at magpupurisiggi sa pagtanggal sa akin (It came from his own mouth that he started and worked on my ouster)," Sereno said.

She referred to Duterte's April 9 speech where he declared himself an enemy of Sereno and said he would ask Congress to remove her from office.

Sereno maintained Solicitor General Jose Calida only followed Duterte's orders when he filed the quo warranto petition against her. This petition, a legal proceeding challenging one's right to hold office, was granted by the Supreme Court on May 11, making Sereno the first top magistrate to be ousted by the High Court.

'Isn't it like martial law?'

Sereno, who first caught Duterte's ire in 2016 after she expressed concern over his drug war, called Duterte's government a dictatorship.

"Sabi mo (referring to former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares) nagbabanta ang diktadurya, bigyan kitang alternative theory. Hindi kaya nandito na? Kailangan ba nating maghintay ng proclamation para maliwanagan na baka nga naman nandito na ang diktadurya?" Sereno said.

[Translation: "You said there is a threat of dictatorship, I will give you an alternative theory. Isn't it here now? Do we need to wait for a proclamation to see we are in a dictatorship?]

"Hindi ho ba pareho lang yung takot na nararamdaman natin ngayon sa naramdaman natin nung mga dekada '70s (isn't the fear we feel now the same as what we felt in the 1970s)?" she added.

She mentioned the rising number of vigilante-style killings after Duterte launched his drug war, the curses at critics during public speeches, and several pronouncements made by Duterte that Sereno said instilled fear among the public.

"The only way to fight a bully is to resist," Sereno said, adding Duterte hates dissent.

The late strongman Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. It lasted 14 years amid alleged human rights violations and corruption.

Duterte denied he was a strongman after he was featured as such in the cover of TIME Magazine. Malacañang said Filipinos appreciate the President's "strong" and "decisive" leadership.

On China

Sereno also took a swipe at Duterte's recent pronouncement that Chinese President Xi Jinping swore to protect him from moves to remove him from office.

"Kaya po ba nating tanggapin na ang protector ng ating Pangulo ay isang banyagang gobyerno (Can we accept that our President's protector is a foreign government)?" Sereno said.

"Sana pala pumunta rin ako kay Ginoong Xi Jinping (I should have gone to Mr. Xi Jinping then)," Sereno quipped amid cheers from the audience.

She asked if Duterte's allegiance to China could be a ground for impeachment. Duterte's alleged failure to defend the country's sovereign rights and territorial claims in the long-standing maritime row with China was among the accusations in an impeachment case filed against him in 2017 but this was junked by the House Committee on Justice.