CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday refused to be drawn into a word war with President Rodrigo Duterte, who said he could declare Martial Law if she interfered with the government’s anti-drug campaign.
“Many things have been said. The Chief Justice sees no need to add to what are being said,” Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te told reporters when asked to comment on Duterte’s tirades against her.
Earlier, the President warned the chief justice against interfering in the government’s anti-drug campaign or he might consider imposing Martial Law.
On Monday, Sereno bewailed the move by President Duterte to publicly name seven judges for their allegedly coddling drug lords, describing it as “premature” and saying it could endanger their lives.
In a four-page letter to Duterte, Sereno said she would also caution the judges implicated by the President not to surrender to the police in the absence of an arrest warrant.
“Mr. President, a premature announcement of an informal investigation on allegations of involvement with the drug trade will have the unwarranted effect of rendering the judge veritably useless in discharging his adjudicative role,” Sereno said.
“With all due respect, Mr. President, we were caught unprepared by the announcement. It would matter greatly to our sense of constitutional order, if we were given the chance to administer the appropriate preventive measures without the complications of a premature public announcement,” she added.
While the Supreme Court, which supervises all trial courts nationwide, supports Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, Sereno said it has been careful in handing investigations and administrative cases against judges.
The administrative process in the judiciary was very sensitive so as not to affect the good reputation of judges, which is their “primary badge of credibility and the only legacy that many of our judges can leave behind.”
Sereno also expressed concern on the safety of the judges named by Duterte.
“Too many of our judges have been assassinated, 26 since 1999, a large proportion of them reportedly at the behest of crime lords, more specifically, drug lords… Our judges may have been rendered vulnerable and veritable targets for any of those persons and groups who may consider judges as acceptable collateral damage in the war on drugs,” she said.