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Business groups: Follow rule of law on Sereno impeachment

March 17, 2018 News

Business groups yesterday urged the country's leaders to follow the constitutional processes in the move to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying this would assure Filipinos and the business community that the Philippines is adhering to the rule of law. In a statement, the Makati Business Club (MBC) said respect for the Constitution and rule of law is important in keeping investor confidence in the country. This respect, it added, necessitates that Sereno be allowed to "defend herself within our constitutionally defined process." The Makati Business Club calls on the country's political and judicial leaders to let the House of Representatives and, if so determined, the Senate follow the impeachment process set forth in theConstitution against ChiefJustice Maria Lourdes Sereno,"  the group said. "Regardless of the outcome of the process, giving the Chief Justice the chance to defend herself within our constitutionally defined process is essential to demonstrate this country's respect for the rule of law and to assure all Filipinos that we are protected by our laws," it added.For businesses, the MBC said it is absolutely important that laws and contracts will be upheld for them to invest and create more jobs, which is what will ultimately reduce poverty in a sustainable way. The European Chamber ofCommerce of the Philippines(ECCP) supported the call as its president, Guenter Taus,said, "Although we refrain from commenting on political issues, it's always the bestcourse of action to follow theConstitution, which is the supreme law of the land.""Nobody even has to make that call. It goes without saying not only in the case ofChief Justice Sereno, but in all cases," Taus told The STAR.The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country's largest business organization, said it has decided not to take any position regarding the issue. "We were not able to get a consensus in this matter. Our feeling is it's really more political rather than anything.It's really not a topic that PCCI would like to get involved in. It's really a legal and political issue so we decided not to take any position, "PCCI honorary chairman Sergio Ortiz­ Luis Jr. told The STAR when sought for comment. Judges and court employees have earlier called on Sereno to step down from her post, lamenting that the impeachment proceedings "have put the entire judiciary in disrepute. "But Sereno rejected the calls and took a leave instead. She lambasted her critics for resorting to shortcuts to remove her from office, apparently referring to a quo warranto petition filed against her, instead of just waiting for the Senate impeachment court to start a trial.In Bacolod City, Sen. Cynthia Villar said the trial, due to the lack of time, might only start in July. She explained that the Senate is set to take a recess and would resume session only on May 15. Sen. Risa Hontiveros,who paid a courtesy call on Negros Occidental Gov.Alfredo Maranon Jr. yesterday, assured Sereno of Senate impartiality when trial begins. The Senate, she added, is ready to transform itself into an impeachment court as soon as the House of Representatives transmits the articles of impeachment. "As many of us senators have expressed, the best way to secure accountability from impeachable officials is precisely through an impeachment with the Senate as the proper venue. But it seems the executive is trying to do it in another way, through the quo warranto petition, which seems to me to be rather unprecedented, dangerous and an unconstitutional reroute, "Hontiveros said.Meanwhile, Rep. Ariel Casilao of leftist partylist group Anak-pawis yesterday urged the House of Representatives and Malacanang to stop "ganging up" on the Chief Justice.He said the impeachment hearings and the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida with the Supreme Court are coordinated moves to remove the Chief Justice or force her to resign. "With the executive and the legislative branches obviously plotting to implement major changes in governance, the only remaining stumbling block against them is the judiciary under the Chief Justice. In this light,we call on the public to stand watch for the judiciary's independence, stand with CJ Sereno," Casilao urged.