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Philippine religious groups back embattled chief justice

New coalition formed to support Duterte critic Maria Lourdes Sereno in impeachment fight

Philippine religious groups back embattled chief justice

Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno listens to a question during a press conference in Manila in this August 2016 photo. (Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP)

December 5, 2017

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Religious groups in the Philippines formed a coalition on Dec. 4 to support embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who faces impeachment by President Rodrigo Duterte's political allies.

The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and Intercessors for the Philippines and the Prayer Battalion for Truth and Justice led civil society groups in forming the "Coalition for Justice" to oppose "persistent efforts of a powerful few to impeach the chief justice on charges that are clearly baseless and malicious."

At a press conference, they described ongoing impeachment proceedings as a "mockery of the rule of law" and an "assault on the independence of the judiciary and institutions necessary to preserve democracy."

The new group follows in the footsteps of the Movement Against Tyranny, which had earlier denounced the impeachment moves against Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales as "a witch hunt against institutions, groups and personalities that serve as a check and balance on the executive branch."

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines and the National Union of People's Lawyers slammed legislators for denying Sereno the right to counsel, refusing her lawyers' request to cross examine the complainant Larry Gadon.

Gadon accused Sereno, who has criticized Duterte on a number of occasiond, of culpable violation of the Constitution, high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

Sereno faces an uphill battle in a Congress where opposition legislators number less than a third of Duterte supporters.

The coalition warned that the attacks against the chief justice and the denial of her fundamental rights at the impeachment hearings could be a prelude to an authoritarian rule that has no respect for human rights.

Its members vouched for Sereno's integrity, independence and impartiality.

 

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