Binay urges new chief justice to be interpreter, not maker, of the lawBy Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Saying he was confident about the new leadership at the Supreme Court, Vice President Jejomar Binay challenged Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to carry out reforms in the institution without resorting to judicial activism, or turning the court into a “maker” instead of an “interpreter” of the law.
Speaking at a tendered by University of the Philippines law alumni in Sereno’s honor Friday night, Binay cited Sereno’s “historic” and “challenging” ascent to her post, being the first woman to become chief justice following a stormy chapter in the Supreme Court.
President Benigno Aquino appointed 52-year-old Sereno in August, three months after Renato Corona was removed from office by impeachment. The second youngest to assume the post, Sereno is expected to serve for 18 years.
“That would be quite a record, but the greater record our people are looking forward to is that of a court which shall make the law and justice live not only in the rulings of its magistrates but above all in the hearts of our fellowmen,” said Binay in his speech at the Manila Polo Club gathering.
As the Supreme Court starts afresh following the tumultuous months of Corona’s impeachment trial, Binay said Sereneo “will have to be that light on the hill” that would guide the tribunal on its way to reform.
“I am very confident that you, as chief justice, will exert every effort to hasten the healing process and reassure our people that all such suspicions and fears are wrong,” said Binay, in a reference to apprehensions that Corona’s ouster might leave a “chilling effect” on the court.
“We shall need truth, wisdom, justice and loyalty to the law to continue guiding all our courts. Much of that will have to emanate from the highest court…. [Y]ou have the opportunity to assure our people that your true master, after God, is the Constitution,” he said.
He also reminded Sereno to remain faithful to the Constitution and warned against overstepping the mandate to interpret the law.
“The Constitution as the fundamental law sets the limits of what the two other branches of government can do and cannot do. The Supreme Court should never lack the will or the courage to declare where those limits have been exceeded, if ever and whenever they are exceeded,” said Binay.
“We are a young democracy confronted with the need to maintain the supremacy of the law against the demands of various interest groups, each claiming to wield so much political power. We have to make sure that the strength of the law prevails against the law of the strongest. This will need a strong and judicious court,” Binay said.
Lauding Sereno’s commitment to reform, Binay added: “Within the judiciary itself, there is need for reform. You, Madame Chief Justice, have recognized that need, and you have wasted no time in initiating it. Reform, as such, requires no rocket science, only an untiring pace and a sincere desire to achieve not just what is possible, but above all what seems impossible.”