Malacañang pleads anew: Give Sereno a break
For the umpteenth time, Malacañang is pleading that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno be given a break.
Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang on Tuesday sought to steer clear of the reported snub by seven justices of Sereno’s first flag-raising ceremony on Monday, but said the public expected her colleagues to give her a chance to prove herself.
“I don’t want to speculate on why some of the justices did not appear at the flag ceremony,” he said. “What’s clear is that the Supreme Court has a new leader; no one is questioning that.”
Carandang said he’d rather not dwell on whether the absence by half of the magistrates at Monday’s flag ceremony was a snub. What was important, he added, was whether the justices could carry out reforms in the judiciary.
“I would not try to read anything into it at this point in time. What’s important is whether or not they can move on the reforms that are needed and sought by the public,” he said. “What’s important is that the work gets done.”
Carandang said he could not say Sereno’s appointment had created a rift in the high tribunal.
“People are reading things into the absence of this or that justice from this or that ceremony and the justices themselves have not said anything,” he said, adding that what’s important is a responsive justice system.
Asked if the other justices should move on, Carandang said, “We’re assuming that with the appointment of a new Chief Justice, the Supreme Court can get about with its business.”
Caps impeach drama
Carandang said that Sereno’s appointment was largely perceived “to be a positive thing that caps the drama” over the ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona for the nondisclosure of his assets.
“It’s a new slate and we hope that everybody will give Justice Sereno a chance to prove herself,” he said.
When Sereno appeared and spoke at her first flag-raising ceremony at the Supreme Court on Monday morning, Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Arturo Brion, Presbitero Velasco and Martin Villarama Jr. were absent.
In her oath-taking before President Benigno Aquino in Malacañang on August 25, only Villarama and Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano del Castillo and Bienvenido Reyes showed up.
Get on with business
Mr. Aquino broke tradition when he picked the 52-year-old junior justice over the five most senior justices. Sereno will serve as Chief Justice for the next 18 years until the retirement age of 70.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima shrugged off reported tensions in the court.
Initial birth pains
“It’s too early to conclude there is such a friction,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “I’d like to play it by ear and observe what will happen,” she said, describing what Sereno was experiencing as “just initial birth pains.”
Representative Niel Tupas Jr., a member of the Judicial and Bar Council, said that at the JBC meeting with Sereno, the Chief Justice seemed “upbeat and happy.”
“If she can prove herself to her colleagues as well as reach out and gain their confidence and respect, slowly she will get the cooperation of other members of the court,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he would meet with the justices Wednesday to discuss their budget and their “digitization program.”
“We’re just guests there,” he said in a text message. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Leila B. Salaverria
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