Duterte to Sereno: No winner in a ‘constitutional war’

MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte has dared Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to undergo a reality check, urging her not to create a constitutional crisis over his naming of judges allegedly involved in illegal drugs.

“Please go to reality. Huwag ka masyado dun sa itaas… I have my oath. I will defend the Constitution, I will honor the flag, but do not create a conflict there because hindi tayo magkasundo… (we would disagree…) Please, please, please do not create a confrontation, a constitutional war, talo tayong lahat diyan (we will all lose there),” the President said on Tuesday.

In his speech before more than 400 soldiers of the Fourth Infantry Division (4ID) of the Philippine Army, Duterte said naming the judges implicated in illegal drugs is the duty of the chief executive as lead implementor of the law.

“It was not an accusatorial utterance but rather it was in consonance with my duty as president of the Philippines to let everybody know sino yung mga tao sa tabi-tabi mo (who are the people linked to narcotics near you), to spare you the agony and greed of a child being raped,” Duterte said about his remarks last Sunday.

‘Premature announcement’

Sereno, in a letter dated Aug. 8 and sent through Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, said Duterte’s revelations last Sunday was “a premature announcement of an informal investigation on allegations of involvement with the drug trade” and that the President’s action leads to “the unwarranted effect of rendering the judge veritably useless in discharging his adjudicative role.”

“It would be very helpful if the investigators who included the names of Judges Dagala and Gonzales inform the Court how these MTC judges can be considered as influencing the drug trade,” the Chief Justice said.

Sereno disclosed that the high court is “currently investigating a report on a judge who may be so involved” but is not on the list the President revealed.

“To safeguard the role of the judges as the protector of constitutional rights, I would caution them very strongly against ‘surrendering’ or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly-issued warrant of arrest that is pending,” Sereno said.

Even the deeds of the dead

President Duterte said he never ordered anybody to be arrested and that his statement was for judges to report to the Supreme Court, and for the police to report to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

“I want the Philippines to know who are the judges, soldiers, police, generals pati yung mga nasa baba na sangkot sa droga, pati yung patay na. Kapag napasok pangalan mo diyan. Hindi mapasok pangalan mo dyan kung sabihin lang na pulitika because they have to be revalidated.”

(“I want the Philippines to know who are the judges, soldiers, police, generals, including the low-ranking ones who are linked to illegal drugs, including the dead. Their names would not be on the list if this was politically motivated, because they have to be revalidated.”)

The President also said he did not mention the circumstances or details about the drug involvement of the persons he named.

“Mga judges niya sabit, di ko alam kung bakit ganito, yung ibang judges na nandyan patay na or napaalis na sa pwesto…I just wanted to impress to the public na noon pa alam na namin ang negosyo ninyo. Since your name is there, leave it and I will publish it the way it is there. Bakit mo exempt yung mga namatay?” Duterte said.

(“Some of the judges in the list have died or have been dismissed… I just wanted to impress to the public that we have long known about the businesses of those in the list. Since their names are there, leave it and I will publish it the way it is there. Why should the dead be exempted?” Duterte said.)

The President noted how crimes run rampant while courts deliberate on the law.

“Maghintay sila warrant of arrest in the meantime crime is rampaging? (Why would they wait for warrants of arrest to be issued while crime is rampaging?)” he said.

He said that as lawyers, he and Sereno know how difficult it is to secure a warrant of arrest and how slow the wheels of justice turn.“One single case will take a minimum of two to three years and will take forever when it reaches the court. What was the fastest decision you made in a criminal case? Now you are asking for a warrant of arrest for 600,000? You must be joking,” he said.

“Six years ang dumaan walang ginawa, look what happened. Ako two months lang ako dito. Ikaw ang niwarningan ko, do not create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you.”

(“Six years passed and nothing was done. Look what happened. I have been in place for two months. I am warning you: Do not create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you.” PNA/northboundasia.com