Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was interviewed by the BBC World News program HARDtalk where she said she doesn’t want to become an opposition politician.
Broadcast yesterday, the interview also touched on the reasons for Sereno’s removal from office. The former chief justice was ousted last month allegedly due to questions about her integrity and her failure to file statements of assets, liabilities and net worth during her tenure as a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).
In the interview, she told host Stephen Sackur, “My situation highlighted many of the structural problems in my country, especially in the area of justice. People are saying that there should be greater accountability from every public official and that means a great deal for the fight in democracy.”
Asked by Sackur if she plans to run for public office, whether as a senator or president, she said, “I am not someone who plots and plans these things. I have never really been a someone who has sought a political office even in campus so no, it is far from me to be calculating along that line.”
Sereno, while refusing to mention Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s name, said that he has attacked many government institutions even before she was ousted.
“This president came in strongly, attacking many institutions,” she said. “The attack on the judiciary was simultaneously carried out by attacks on different [government] institutions…These relentless attacks basically fit in a pattern of trying to weaken democratic institutions.”
Sereno also defended her previous criticisms of the president, alleging that some judges were forced to go into hiding after they were tagged as being involved in the drugs trade.
“I must make sure that in the face of a very strong presidency, the chief justice will weigh in and say, ‘Please Mr. President do not treat the judiciary this way. The moment you present their names as suspects in a narco list you effectively destroy their efficacy as judges.’ They were forced to go into hiding [because] their lives were in danger,” she said.
She added, “It’s the duty of constitutionally appointed officers to weigh in when their mandate requires that they weigh in. It’s not about politics, it’s about doing the right thing.”
Sereno also denied allegations that she failed to file her income statements when she was working at UP. She said, “I had a habit of filing these…That was part of my past life in which I filed the mandatory requirement.”
Last month, Sereno was ousted after her colleagues at the Supreme Court voted eight to six based on a quo warranto petition filed by the country’s Solicitor General Jose Calida.