Sereno, 52, will have second longest tenure in High Court
President Benigno Aquino III appointed 52-year-old Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal Sereno as the new Chief Justice, the first female chief magistrate of the land.
In Cebu, some judges and lawyers hailed her appointment and expressed hope that her tenure would restore public trust in the judiciary and the legal system.
Sereno, a native of Manila, is the 24th chief justice of the Philippines.
She replaced Renato Corona who became the first chief justice to be impeached by Congress with a resounding 20-3 vote last May 29.
Sereno will serve until her mandatory retirement in 2030, which would make her the second longest serving Chief Justice, next to Cayetano Arellano’s record of 19 years.
In her statement posted on the SC website, Serena said she would serve the country “with integrity and conviction” to restore the “people’s faith in good government.”
“I humbly accept this responsibility and by God’s grace commit myself to help fulfill the Filipino’s quest for true justice,” she added.
In Cebu, Court of Appeals Justice Gabriel Ingles said that at 52, Sereno has many quality years ahead of her to implement judicial reforms.
“I’m happy with Sereno’s appointment. She deserved it and I believe in her independence even if she’s identified with the Aquino administration,” Ingles told Cebu Daily News.
Before her SC appointment, Sereno was the executive director of the policy think-tank of the Asian Institute of Management and president of Accesslaw, Inc.
Sereno was a law professor at the University of the Philippines for almost 20 years.
She also taught law and economics at the Philippine Judicial Academy and international trade law at the Hague Academy of International Law.
Sereno likewise taught electronic commerce law at AIM, and international trade law at the Department of Foreign Affairs-Foreign Service Institute.
In 1998, Sereno was recognized as one of the Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service in the field of law.
Sereno has a Master of Laws degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the United States. She also has units in the Master of Arts in Economics Program from the UP School of Economics.
She has an economics major from the Ateneo de Manila University and studied law in UP where she graduated valedictorian cum laude in 1984, placing 14th in the bar exams of the same year.
Sereno was born to Margarito Aranal of Siasi Sulu, and Soledad Aranal of Bay, Laguna.
She is married to Mario Jose Sereno. They have two children – Maria Sophia, 24, and Jose Lorenzo, 23
Cebu Regional Trial Court Judge Meinrado Paredes welcomed Sereno’s appointment.
“I hope she can restore the image of the judiciary. May there be integrity, honesty, impartial justice, and speedy disposition of cases,” he said.
Paredes said the speedy disposition of cases relies on the filling up of vacant courts in the country.
He said he appreciated the move of the president to choose an “insider” of the High Court.
“We have not heard any negative reports about her (Sereno). Let’s try a female chief justice. The courts can be gender-sensitive,” Paredes said.
He said it’s too early to say whether she will be biased for the President.
Still, Paredes urged the legal communities in the country to be vigilant at all times.
Sereno was appointed as associate justice of the SC by Aquino in 2010. She was the president’s first appointee to the High Court.
Paredes said Sereno should create programs to restore the image of the judiciary.
“I hope flip-floppings in resolving cases in the Supreme Court will be gone. If a ruling is final and executory, that’s it,” he said.
Paredes was referring to the SC’s move to reverse final rulings in the cityhood cases which ended in the creation of new cities in the country.
Earl Bonachita, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter, said he hopes Sereno will move to increase the budget in the judiciary.
“We have been requesting for an elevator at the Palace of Justice in Cebu City. We were told that there was not enough budget. Perhaps in the tenure of the new chief justice, it would be solved,” Bonachita said.
Bonachita also said they hope Sereno will maintain independence of the courts and adherence to the rule of law as well as unite the judiciary.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said President Aquino appointed Sereno amid the mourning over the death of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.
The President has until Aug. 27 to pick his choice of the country’s chief magistrate.
Last year, after Congress impeached former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Malacañang officials already hinted of their preference for Corona’s replacement. Lacierda then said Mr. Aquino “needs someone of the likes of Maylou Sereno,” referring to Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
Sereno cast one of the dissenting votes in the Supreme Court decision to allow former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the country for medial treatment.
Out of the eight-member Judicial and Bar Council which is constitutionally mandated to screen and recommend applicants to the Judiciary and Ombudsman post, six voted for Sereno.
Presiding chairman and Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Regino Hermosisima did not vote for Sereno. with reports from Inquirer
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