President Duterte has urged Congress to speed-up the impeachment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, declaring himself her “enemy”.
The nation’s top judges is one of several high-profile critics who have found themselves in in the firing line after criticising the president drug war.
Speaking to reporters before flying to China for an economic forum today (Monday, April 9), the president said: “I’m putting you (Sereno) on notice that I am now your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court. I will see to it.
“I held my temper before because she’s a woman. This time I’m asking the congressmen and the Speaker: ‘Do it now. Cut out the drama, or else I will do it for you’.”
A committee of the House of Representatives found “probable cause” to impeach Sereno last month, in a move which critics allege is part of wider efforts by the president to destroy his foes.
If lawmakers in the full House support the move, Sereno would face a US-style impeachment trial. Congress is currently in recess until May 14.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to hear a separate petition to unseat Sereno from the country’s highest tribunal tomorrow.
She has been accused of failing to pay about two million pesos in taxes as well as falsifying and tampering with court resolutions.
She is also accused of excessive spending on “opulent” hotels and a luxury official vehicle, as well as flying business or first class.
Until today, the president had flatly denied having a hand in the moves to oust Sereno.
The president and Sereno first clashed in 2016 when she criticised his order that judges who he had linked to the drug trade should turn themselves in to police.
Opposition lawmakers have been quick to criticise the president’s latest remarks. Congressman Tom Villarin said: “The president is playing ‘god’ and arrogating unto himself powers over Congress and the Speaker meekly submitting to his whims.
“On a national day commemorating our fallen heroes who died for our country’s sovereignty and democracy, it is ironic that President Duterte flies off to China which have occupied our islands in the West Philippine Sea thus becoming our enemy while declaring that Chief Justice Sereno is his enemy.”