Top Philippine Judge Removed After Attacks on Duterte's Drug War

(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines’ top court took the unprecedented step Friday of removing the nation’s chief justice.

Supreme Court justices voted 8-6 to nullify the appointment of Maria Lourdes Sereno, an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. At a televised briefing, court spokesman Theodore Te read the decision that declared Sereno “guilty of unlawfully holding” the position.

Duterte last month called Sereno his “enemy,” and pledged to oust the judge who has spoken out against his deadly drug war and decision to put southern parts of the Philippines under military rule. Her removal makes the Supreme Court more vulnerable to pressure from other branches of government, according to Professor Dante Gatmaytan of the University of the Philippines College of Law.

“Every time the Supreme Court plays politics, it sacrifices its integrity and its status is diminished,” he said.

Sereno, the first woman to hold the role, said after her ouster that she was legitimately appointed in 2012 by Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino. With her term supposed to end in 2030, Sereno said the constitution states she can only be unseated by Congress through impeachment.

“A majority in the Supreme Court violated their oath to protect the Constitution, and destroyed the judiciary,” said Sereno, whose lawyers plan to appeal the decision. She added that six colleagues who had testified against her shouldn’t have taken part in the vote.

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