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The seventh 'dissent' vs Sereno's ouster: Spokesman Ted Te speaks own mind

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V. Roxas

Protesters display placards while shouting slogans as they mass in front of the Philippine Supreme Court to rally for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno while the court votes on a petition to oust her in a move she calls unconstitutional Friday, May 11, 2018 in Manila, Philippines.

The quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida has been granted by a vote of 8-6.

Thus, the signatories called for the start of Sereno's impeachment trial in the Senate, where she finally gets the chance to defend herself from the allegations hurled against her. "We need to be vigilant in this time of darkness", the 58-year-old said.

Sereno was facing a separate impeachment bid in the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte's allies.

"Respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno is disqualified from and is hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the chief justice", said Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te, adding the order was effective immediately.

Roque added that the Supreme Court was also duty-bound to uphold the Constitution.

"The ouster of our chief justice - this foundation of democracy, this shield against abuse of power in government - has crumbled", it said in a statement.

Nine justices - Carpio, Teresita de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes, and Alexander Gesmundo - agreed Sereno violated the Constitution for her failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) for ten years before she applied for the chief justice post in 2012.

The Constitution provides that there are special class of government officials that can only be removed through impeachment.

Leonen was one of the six who voted to dismiss the quo warranto petition.

Sereno said there must be a "strong force" that compelled the magistrates to vote as they did.

Lawyer Mundlyn Misal-Martin, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu Chapter, said she was surprised by the decision and that it was "something that I look forward to reading and learning from".

Sereno was ordered to explain within 10 days why she should not be sanctioned for allegedly discussing the complaint against her in public and "for casting aspersions and ill-motive to the members of the Supreme Court".

"The people must be given time to review this decision". Let the trial in the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, begin.

SC set voting on Sereno's quo warranto case originally on May 17. In 2016, after Duterte accused some public figures and judges of being involved in the drug trade, Sereno angered the president by instructing judges not to turn themselves in to authorities before being presented with a warrant.

The president last month urged lawmakers to "fast-track" Sereno's removal, warning that otherwise "I'll do it for you".

Sereno's camp said the Chief Justice is ready to face whatever is the outcome of the Court's deliberations on the quo warranto petition.

Worldwide rights groups and local critics have accused the 73-year-old Duterte of drifting toward authoritarianism after declaring martial law in the south amid a major attack by pro-Islamic State group militants last year.

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