Legal counsel for the Philippine government asked the Supreme Court [official website] on Monday to remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno [profile] over allegations that she did not properly declare her assets. The move [AP report] is the latest against Justice Sereno, who last year was targeted for impeachment by President Rodrigo Duterte [JURIST archive] when he accused her of attempting to discredit his administration.
Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the petition to have Justice Sereno removed for allegedly failing to file a required annual declaration of assets and liabilities ten times between 1986 and 2006 while employed as a professor at the state-run University of the Philippines College of Law [official website]. The petition claims Sereno was recommended due a mistaken report to the Judicial Bar Council [official website] that stated she had completed all of the necessary requirements.
This is the second attempt to remove Justice Sereno. The House of Representatives [official website], which is comprised mainly of Duterte’s allies, is expected to impeach her [NY Times report] later this month based on 27 allegations which include corruption and betrayal of the public trust. Additional accusations include the several counts of failing to file asset statements as required by law and lavish spending of public funds such as a ₱5,000,000 (USD $265,000), luxury car for her use. Thirteen of her 14 colleagues have requested that she take an indefinite leave of absence amid the impeachment attempt.
A spokesman for Justice Sereno said she has not committed any wrongdoing and that she will be able to prove that she has properly filed her declarations of assets during an impeachment trial. Critics of Duterte are skeptical of the charges and believe they are move to intimidate the judiciary. International rights groups have been wary [JURIST report] of Duterte’s authoritative policies, several of which Justice Sereno voted against, including a declaration of martial law after an invasion of armed militants in Marawi [JURIST report].