No spokesperson for Sereno, just communicatorBy Christine O. Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Three weeks into her new job, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has yet to designate an official spokesperson for the Supreme Court.
Instead, she has appointed a so-called “communicator” and a “resource person” for judicial reform.
Deputy court administrator Raul Villanueva introduced himself to reporters last week as Sereno’s communicator for judicial reform.
On Tuesday, Quezon City regional trial court judge Ma. Filomena Singh introduced herself as the high court’s “briefer or resource person on judicial reform.”
Villanueva told a briefing Tuesday that Sereno wanted people to know about the unreported judicial reforms that were being undertaken in the courts and this was why he and Singh were designated to convey them to the media.
He said the Chief Justice felt there was a need to address perceptions of the judiciary being unable to deliver justice immediately to the people “because at the end of the day, judicial service is not about the Supreme Court coming up with decisions but also to cater to the expectations of the people.”
“The way I understand her, as far as the Chief Justice is concerned the SC and the entire judiciary is just not about the people who man it but also the people who come to you,” Villanueva said.
Last week, Villanueva announced the first judicial reform approved under the Sereno court—an administrative directive requiring all courts in the country to allow witnesses to submit affidavits in lieu of oral testimony, thus cutting short the testimony time and speeding up the resolution of cases.
Singh on Tuesday talked about two other judicial reforms now being undertaken—the new procedures on small claims cases and the new guidelines for litigation in Quezon City courts that promise to speed up the resolution of cases as well.
Explaining Singh’s appointment, Villanueva said Sereno saw it best to tap “a frontliner to be able to inform the public about updates on our ongoing judicial reforms.”
Villanueva explained that he will be the one to “share what judicial reform programs are adopted and approved” by the Supreme Court while it will be the role of Singh to explain the “experiences and results” of these programs.
“I’m here to speak from the point of [view of the] implementers,” Singh said, noting that trial court judges often complained whenever a judicial program is introduced because they were not consulted if these would work based on what they know from their experience.
“This signals a change that we will listen to the people actually implementing these projects so from the start there will be no mistakes and if there is a need for correction there will be a voice on this,” she said.
Asked whether Sereno will be designating a spokesperson to convey decisions and resolutions approved by the high court in its regular Tuesday en banc sessions, Villanueva said the Chief Justice would eventually have a system in place.
System in place
But in the “meantime” the approved decisions and resolutions of the high court will be released by the Supreme Court public information office (PIO) currently headed by Gleo Guerra, who was designated to the post until the end of October, he said.
Singh said that Sereno was now studying the “plantilla” of the PIO.
“Please give her time to weigh her options in that aspect,” Villanueva said, assuring reporters that the Chief Justice was “very much” aware of the media’s queries about en banc decisions and resolutions.
A few days after she assumed her post, Sereno released a statement to the media saying that she would not be giving media interviews and that it was better for the Supreme Court to be heard through its decisions.
She said she wanted to take the high court back to the days of “dignified silence.”