A U.N. expert says the unprecedented expulsion of the Philippine chief justice after she was lambasted by the president is an attack on judicial independence that could imperil the country's democracy.

U.N. Rapporteur Diego Garcia-Sayan, who looks into threats to the independence of judges and lawyers worldwide, said in an interview that he has sent questions to the Philippine government about the circumstances leading to the May 11 ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from the 15-member high court and expects a response in 60 days.

He said there is no formal U.N. investigation into Sereno's ouster but he wanted to engage the Philippine government in a dialogue to help strengthen the country's judicial independence and foster checks against abuses and human rights violations.