Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno warned of possible turmoil and confusion when the federal constitution’s proposal was approved.
Addressing soldiers in Cagayan de Oro, the President could not hide his displeasure over Sereno’s pronouncement, saying he could not afford to wait for arrest warrants while people are being slaughtered by drug users.
“You know, Chief Justice, there is a slaughter going on. Mind you, you are appointed by the government there in your office as Chief Justice at a time when the government is doing nothing. Why wait for warrant of arrest? There are 600,000 people addicted to drugs?” Duterte said.
“Madam Chief Justice, you must be joking. Both of us are lawyers… You know how long it will take for the government to secure a warrant of arrest,” he added.
“I warn you. Don’t create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you. You want me to be frank?
“Please, don’t push me, hindi ako gago (I’m not stupid). If the illegal drug trade continues, would you rather that I declare martial law,” Duterte said.
Duterte resolve Sereno
The President said it takes about two to three months before an arrest warrant can be secured. He noted that cases take years or even “forever” before they are resolved by the court.
“In the Supreme Court, tell me. What is the fastest decision you made on criminal cases? You’re asking for warrant of arrest for 600,000 Filipinos. In the meantime, what do we do with the addict? We let them stay there to resume their criminal activity?” Duterte said.
“Ma’am huwag tayo magbolahan (let’s not fool each other) and don’t force the issue. I respect your comment but it is… a rigmarole to me,” he added.
Duterte blamed the Aquino administration for its failure to curb the drug menace in the country.
“Six years have passed and nothing happened,” the tough-talking President said.
Former president Benigno Aquino III named Sereno as chief justice in 2012 following the ouster of SC chief magistrate Renato Corona by an impeachment court for failing to declare some of his assets.
Ready to step down
Duterte said he is ready to step down once federalism is established and the problem of drugs is resolved.
“I’m ready to retire if federalism is ready two to three years from now. I’ll give way and I’m good for retirement,” he added.
The President stressed that he did not make an “accusatorial utterance” when he linked more than a hundred officials to narcotics trade.
“It is in consonance to my duty as President of the Philippines to let everybody know the people around them,” he said.