The Philippine Supreme Court ousted its chief justice, a critic of the country's authoritarian president, in an unprecedented vote Friday by fellow judges that she and hundreds of protesters called unconstitutional and a threat to democracy.
By a vote of 8-6, the court granted the government's petition to cancel Sereno's appointment on the grounds of alleged violations in the appointment process.
The Supreme Court case against Sereno alleged she failed to file statements of assets and liabilities in previous years - accusations she categorically denied.
Sereno is the first chief justice to be removed by her peers and the second top judge to lose the position after her predecessor was impeached for non-disclosure of wealth.
Sereno has been accused of failing to pay about two million pesos (R491,926) in taxes as well as falsifying and tampering with court resolutions.
On Friday, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, an ally of Sereno, said the Supreme Court's ruling marked "a black day for justice and the rule of law".
Using a quo warranto petition, instead of proceeding with an impeachment trial in the Senate, railroaded the process and was done "in utter disregard of the legal and due process", said Bathan.
A Philippine opposition leader says the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is a mockery of the constitution.
Legal experts pointed out that under the Constitution, all impeachable officials like the president, vice president and chief justice as well as heads of constitutional offices like the Commission on Elections, Office of the Ombudsman and Commission on Audit are to be dismissed only after undergoing an impeachment trial with the Senate sitting as the impeachment court.More news: Sex Scandal: R. Kelly's Songs Removed From Spotify's Playlists
THE SC said in the dispositive portion of the ruling, which Te read to reporters, it found Sereno "disqualified from and is hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the Office of the Chief Justice".
"We can not remain silent because silence is like condoning the abuse".
It was also the first time in the history of the Philippines' High Tribunal that a chief justice was removed through a quo warranto plea.
Senator Leila de Lima, also a fellow critic of the government who was jailed previous year on trumped-up drug charges, said Friday's ruling was the "greatest travesty" of justice committed by the high court since 1973, when its members, cowed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos, upheld his martial law.
Opposition politicians denounced Sereno's removal. He also says Sereno should appeal. "The court ruling is, likewise, an assertion of the supremacy of the fundamental law of the land".
"It primarily affects the entire nation as the Supreme Court literally sprawled the red carpet for dictatorial rule. If it calls for your forced removal, I will do it", he added. However, court insiders said the voting was moved to May 11, simultaneous with the submission of the justices separate opinions on the case.
She said she wants to talk to common people, including the youth, about injustice and the urgency of fighting for what is right. In particular, she had questioned Duterte's drug list, which, he had said, contained the names of some 150 individuals in the drug trade.
Sereno made her disapproval of Duterte's leadership quite clear.
She voted against several of his proposals, such as extending martial law on a restive island and allowing late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in a cemetery for national heroes.