With Sereno as Chief Justice, Malacañang sees judiciary reformsBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—With Maria Lourdes Sereno at the helm of the Supreme Court, Malacañang expects the Aquino administration’s “straight path” to lead straight to the judiciary.
The first female Chief Justice of the Philippines would institutionalize long-lasting reforms in the judicial branch under the administration of President Aquino and three succeeding Chief Executives over the next 18 years, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“Having been appointed to the helm of the Supreme Court and to head it for 18 years, we are confident that Sereno has the moral impetus to institutionalize reforms,” Lacierda said in a phone interview with the Inquirer on Sunday.
“Her experience as an associate justice and her intellectual capacity to appreciate the systemic ills of the judiciary will ensure the proper identification of the much-needed reforms which by her long period of stewardship will perforce take root and take hold in the judicial branch,” he said.
Malacañang also sought to allay fears that the new Chief Justice would be a puppet of Aquino.
“Perhaps, if we will make such a conclusion, we should base this on the decisions that Chief Justice Sereno had written since she sat and became a member of the Supreme Court,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on state-run Radyo ng Bayan. “And we can see she has displayed her independence.”
Opportunity for reforms
Valte reiterated the Palace position that the long tenure of Sereno would augur well for the judiciary, beset by institutional and administrative problems such as clogged dockets and corrupt judges.
“The long period will give her the opportunity to put reforms in place to start, to continue those reforms, and to make sure that the reforms are institutionalized in the 18 years that she will have on the court,” Valte said.
She dismissed a report published by another broadsheet on the results of the so-called psychological tests conducted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Sereno and other nominees to the position of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“Again, the sources are not verified, [so it is an] unconfirmed report. But again, since the JBC, included her in the short list [of nominees given to the President], now that she is Chief Justice … we just don’t want to comment anymore. I did read that report. It’s unconfirmed. That’s not an official statement—or not an official release from the JBC—so we will not comment anymore.”
Sereno took her oath before the President in Malacañang on Saturday.
Senior justices of the Supreme Court were not present. Only Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano del Castillo and Bienvenido Reyes came, besides her family, some academicians and Cabinet officials.
Apart from appointing Sereno as the country’s first female Chief Justice, Aquino broke tradition by picking the head of the judiciary not from among the five most senior justices of the Supreme Court. Sereno ranks 13th in seniority.
The five top senior justices are Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta (who declined his nomination for Chief Justice).