Ousted Philippine Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno speaks to supporters at a rally outside the Supreme Court building on Taft Avenue, metro Manila, Philippines May 11, 2018.

The Philippine Supreme Court’s unprecedented and nefarious removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno constitutes a frontal assault on human rights protections and democratic rule.

The court, by an 8 to 6 vote, approved a government-filed petition questioning the validity of Sereno’s appointment. But Sereno’s ouster was about much more. Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Sereno an “enemy” and called for her impeachment for her criticism of his murderous “war on drugs” and other abusive policies.

Sereno, 57, is just the latest in a growing list of institutions and individuals – including Philippine media outlets and United Nations officials – who have been vilified by Duterte for seeking accountability for human rights violations. Duterte has sought to quash any meaningful inquiries into alleged crimes committed by police and their agents in the “drug war” that has killed thousands – a campaign the president has openly endorsed.

Sereno’s ouster also kicks open the door for wanton removals of members of other constitutional bodies, such as the Commission on Human Rights. Ultimately, the rejection of constitutional checks and balances concentrates power in the hands of Duterte and his allies, posing the greatest danger to democracy in the Philippines since the Marcos dictatorship.