By Ellson Quismorio
You ran to Congress when you wanted to get rid of former Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
This was Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate’s retort to current Chief Justice Teresita de Castro after the latter in a recent flag-raising ceremony speech “demanded respect” from the SC’s two co-equal branches of government, namely Congress and the Executive or Malacañang.
“The fact that at that time that she wanted the Chief Justice (Sereno) to be ousted, she ran to Congress and the Executive for help. So there’s a question now of her independence,” Zarate, a Makabayan bloc member, said in an interview.
He further asked of De Castro’s remarks: “Is this a real policy statement or it’s just an empty statement?”
De Castro was recently appointed by the President Rodrigo Duterte to fill in the void left by Sereno, who in May was unseated after her own magistrate-colleagues voted 8-6 to uphold the quo warranto petition filed against her by Solicitor-General Jose Calida.
The SC decision effectively nullified Sereno’s own appointment in 2012 by then-president Rodrigo Duterte. De Castro was among those who favored the quo warranto.
Before this, De Castro joined six other SC Justices in testifying against Sereno during the latter’s impeachment hearings at the House of Representatives, which is the Lower Chamber of Congress.
Known Duterte supporter, lawyer Larry Gadon, filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno whom he accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, graft, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.
“In the past sino ba ang tinakbuhan nila para patalsikin si Chief Justice Sereno? Di ba ang Executive at ang Kongreso? At ngayon pwede mo bang sabihin, ‘Hoy napatalsik ko na, ako na dito, pabayaan niyo ako (In the past who did they run to in order to remove Chief Justice Sereno. It’s the Executive and Congress, right? And now you’re going to say, “Hey I’ve removed her, I’ve replaced her, leave me alone),'” Zarate said.
De Castro, 69, had been quoted as saying: “We should be left alone to decide the fate of this institution without interference…So we demand respect from the other members of the co-equal and independent branches of the government.”
The militant solon went on to belittle what he believes would be the current chief magistrate’s “legacy.”
“At any rate, napakaiksi nung kanyang panunungkulan, in fact tingin ko after nung kanyang pagharap sa mga empleyado sa Supreme Court last Monday, ang susunod niyang gawin ay umikot na lang sa buong Pilipinas at magpaalam na ulit. So yun lang yung magiging legacy niya (At any rate her tenure will be so short, in fact I think after her speech before the Supreme Court officials last Monday, the next thing she will do is to go around the country and say goodbye. So that will be her only legacy).”
At 69 years old, De Castro is the most senior magistrate of the SC. But this also means that her time as Chief Justice would be quite short, just 41 days to be exact, as she will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on October 8.