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Ousted Philippine chief justice tackles drug-war killings

Maria Lourdes Sereno is applying her energy to helping communities understand the importance of life

Inday Espina-Varona, Manila

Inday Espina-Varona, Manila

Published: September 27, 2018 05:00 PM GMT

Updated: September 28, 2018 04:26 AM GMT

Ousted Philippine chief justice tackles drug-war killings

Former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno speaks before her supporters after her ouster in May. (Photo by Vincent Go)

An ousted chief justice of the Philippines launched on Sept. 27 what is dubbed as a "movement for transformation" aimed at looking into drug-related killings in the country.

Maria Lourdes Sereno, former chief justice, said the theme of her campaign is "the orphaning of the people" in the government's war against illegal drugs.

The activity was attended by members of the group Rise Up for Life and Rights, an ecumenical organization that helps families of drug war victims.

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Also supporting the campaign is the Catholic Movement for Transformational Leadership and several evangelical groups that have been supportive of Sereno.

The Philippines' Supreme Court kicked out Sereno in an unprecedented decision handed down on May 11.

It was the first time in Philippine history that the highest court has removed its own chief.

Sereno's supposed failure to declare her assets and liabilities before she was named head of the judiciary in 2012 was cited as the reason for initiating her ouster.

The former chief justice said it would be better to spend her time and energy trying to get communities to understand the importance of life.

The logo of her new movement is a finger pointing up, as if in admonition, with the slogan "Every person must be valued."

Catholic lay leader Alex Lacson said the movement "gives me so much hope and excitement."

"There's so much we need to change in our government and our society today," he said.

Sereno said she is not trying to rouse the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte.

On the day of the movement's launch, the Philippine National Police announced that 400 suspects were killed in anti-drug operations nationwide in August alone.

It translates to 14 dead suspects every day.

While Filipinos in a survey say they approve of the government's anti-illegal drugs campaign, 96 percent believe it is important to capture drug suspects alive.

Aside from families struggling to survive their "orphaning," Sereno said she wants to reach out to lawyers "because this country is being orphaned of the law."

She said she also wants to convince "conservative churches" that campaigned for Duterte in the 2016 elections to rethink their stand on legal shortcuts as a way of saving society.

"As a nation, we are also facing the orphaning of values," said the former chief justice.

Early this month, Sereno turned down an offer by the opposition Liberal Party to join the senatorial race in 2019.

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