Whichever way you look at it President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent disclosure of a number of judges linked to illegal drug business, to include police and military personnel and local government officials, did not state that they were all under arrest.
The revelation of their names was mainly meant to inform all and sundry as Duterte promised he would do, it being his duty as president, he says.
In fact to save their faces, if those named felt they were shamed, they were instructed to report to their respective mother units, like in the case of the judges it is the Supreme Court (SC), to deny or negate the allegation. I think the president was very specific on this, and further instructed the cancellation of “any and all” firearm licenses issued to those whom he named.
I do not know if others were taken aback by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s reaction but, indeed, I was.
She seemed unreasonably upset that, foremost, the independence of the judiciary department, which she heads, had been breached and, secondly, that Duterte could not just make a “premature public announcement” of names of judges allegedly with drug links and be weaponless because they need it to protect themselves.
Sereno’s annoyance of and defiance against Duterte’s lawful order can be gleaned from her letter to the president where she said to him that she had advised judges not to surrender to the police unless presented with a warrant of arrest.
Now who said that the judges have to surrender to the police?
Is divulging the names of the judges as a way of informing the public, like the rest, is showing disrespect and ignoring the independence of the judiciary department?
Sereno’s paranoid reaction did not sit well with Duterte such that the latter answered the former’s letter telling her bluntly that he did not appreciate being “ordered” around by the SC.
Naivete probably got the better of Sereno when she pointed out that some of the judges in Duterte’s list didn’t even handle drug cases. This reasoning and belief generated a rebuff from Duterte where the latter even questioned Sereno’s experience.
“Kung judge, he was not handling drug cases? Ma’am nagkamali ka, akala ko ba, to be there you must be seasoned? Takbo niyan, ‘Pare, tawag mo ‘yung kaibigan mong judge,’” said Duterte.
(As to the judges, he was not handling drug cases? Ma’am, you’re wrong, I thought to be there you must be seasoned? The way it goes is: “Friend, call your judge friend.”)
Furthermore, Duterte told Sereno: “Do not force the issue. I respect your comments, but it is a rigmarole to me.”
He warned the SC that if they order him around, he would instruct the entire executive department not to “honor” the body, the highest court in the land.
“Do not create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you. Ito prangkahan, kasi nakialam kayo (I’m being frank, because you meddled),” he said.
“Just because you are the Supreme Court, you order me? I will not follow you,” he added.
Indeed, this is an interesting development in the government’s relentless fight against illegal drugs and a defining moment of Duterte’s presidency!