Philippines' top court ousts Duterte-critic chief justice

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"It is not my personal interest or actual bias but the common interest of every incumbent Member of the Court to find the truth in whether or not respondent Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno has the integrity to qualify her to hold the highest position in the Judiciary", De Castro said.

Sereno said her camp would file a motion for reconsideration, but did not directly answer if she was confident that her peers would overturn the decision.

Philippines' Supreme Court (SC) ousted on Friday Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who faced ouster efforts after battling with President Rodrigo Duterte over human rights and his deadly war on drugs.

With "a lapdog Congress and a seriously wounded Senate, we now have a puppet Supreme Court", noted the statement.

SC spokesman Theodore Te said the Supreme Court found Sereno "is disqualified from and is hereby adjudged guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the Chief Justice".

The decision against Sereno drew to the Manila court some 2,000 protesters who echoed charges that the sacking posed a grave threat to the nation's democracy. "And you have to be out of the Supreme Court", Duterte said in a speech last month, in which he said he requested lawmakers to "go into the impeachment right away'".

Sereno has denied the allegation and argued that the widely expected ruling was unconstitutional because the country's 1987 charter provides that top officials including justices like her can only be removed by impeachment. "I am not inclined to take part in any constitutional adventurism, and I intend to remain within the clearly confined course that the framers of our Constitution have delineated", del Castillo said.

"No court, not even this Court, can assume the exclusive mandate of Congress to remove impeachable officers from office", he said.

The vote against Sereno gave the Solicitor General a pass to question the decisions of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), supposed to be "a separate constitutional organ which functions as a check on the President's power of appointment", Perlas-Bernabe said.

Many welcomed her appointment in 2012, among them Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, but there were warnings she would not get the justices' support.

Sereno is facing a separate impeachment bid in the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte's allies. "Despite this setback, let us not lose our confidence in our democracy". "Let's continue to spread the message of democracy and reason", she told the crowd.

Sereno has earned the ire of Duterte by speaking up for the respect of law and human rights as he has led a brutal crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of suspects dead.

She added that Sereno lacked basis in requesting her to inhibit from voting in the ouster plea.

But the impeachment process has now been pre-empted by the unprecedented vote Friday to remove her from the Supreme Court, sparking legal confusion over what would happen to the votes she cast on cases in the years she led the country's highest court.