CRITICS of President Rodrigo Duterte have taken him to task for his latest tirades against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who faces ouster on two fronts—impeachment before Congress and quo warranto proceedings that question her eligibility for office before the Supreme Court.
The first assumes she is a legitimate chief justice removable only by impeachment; the second seeks to prove that she is a usurper, an illegitimate chief justice who is no longer subject to the impeachment requirement and may therefore be told to vacate the position that she has illegally occupied.
In a recent public relations offensive, the chief justice accused Mr. Duterte of being behind the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, who after all, reports to the President.
Angered by the accusation, the President had an outburst of his own, declaring himself the chief justice’s enemy and urging Congress to speed up the impeachment proceedings against her. Punctuating his attacks with his usual profanities, he also called the chief justice “bobo” (stupid) and said she should have left office a long time ago.
For this, opposition senator Leila de Lima mocked Duterte for his “gangster governance” and likened him to a mafia boss—or a silver screen villain “overacting according to script.”
But in this bad drama, the senator’s words, however, evoke a sense of deja vu—we have been here before, only minus the profanity.
After all, De Lima’s colorful term “gangster governance” might just as well have applied to her old boss, former President Benigno Aquino III, who used the power of his office and the full resources of the government to avenge some perceived personal slights and persecute his political enemies—former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the late chief justice Renato Corona.
Did the senator, then Justice secretary, not act like a mob lieutenant when she defied the Supreme Court to jail Mrs. Arroyo and detained her on charges that were eventually dismissed? Was she not, in fact, the barrel of the gangster’s gun that deprived Mrs. Arroyo of her basic human rights, when unlike her co-defendants, she was denied bail?
Was Mr. Aquino not acting like a mob boss when he doled out billions of pesos in government funds to senators who would convict his enemy, the sitting chief justice? Did he not declare himself the chief justice’s enemy—much like the President did last week—and use the media to tar and feather his target?
We still recall Mr. Aquino sneering at a businessman in Tacloban City, who expressed fear of looting in the wake of the most powerful storm to devastate Eastern Visayas in 2013. Mr. Aquino’s words would have impressed any cheap hood. “You’re still alive, aren’t you?” he snapped—just like a mob boss.