Sereno’s birthday wish: A next President who follows the law
On her birthday on Thursday, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno fervently wished for the country a new leader next year who would be faithful to the Constitution, particularly its concept of checks and balances.
Expected to be top magistrate of the Supreme Court under three more Presidents, Sereno set down her criteria for the next leader of the nation, saying that loyalty to the Constitution was at the top.
“The next President will hopefully look at the constitutional design,” Sereno told reporters during the birthday lunch held in her honor at the Supreme Court on Thursday.
She said the next President should abide by the Constitution’s intent on checks and balances, particularly on the independence of government agencies like the Ombudsman, the judiciary, and law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.
Independence of judiciary
“Any President who takes the position will have to account for the fact that the primary duty is not to ensure that power is concentrated in the Office of the President. That should not be done, but rather, that the constitutional design of checks and balances for an accountable government is observed,” Sereno said.
She hoped for the preservation of the independence and professionalism of constitutional commissions, investigative and prosecutorial agencies, and the judiciary.
“When that happens, I think you will see a stability in our country that will augur well for the future. I think we can look forward to a more modern and responsive society,” she said.
She noted how the country continued to endure “start-up problems,” or issues that only newer or transitioning democracies are expected to contend with, due to shortcomings in observing the spirit of the Constitution and lapses of agencies in performing their mandates.
“In 2012, I think it was, that I gave a speech at a summit where I said that if we had only been faithfully following the constitutional design, if we only had the Commission on Audit that had been consistently doing its job from the first time it was created, and an Ombudsman that was also doing its job, a judiciary that is faithful to its duty, the prosecution, likewise the investigative and law enforcement agencies, we would not be having these, I would characterize as, somewhat start-up problems where we are trying to align everything to a more cohesive justice system,” Sereno said.
Asked how the Aquino administration measured up to her criteria, Sereno did not give a direct response but said: “You know, I only gauge cases as they come. That is not a question before us.”
Along the same line, Sereno said she hoped President Aquino would speak more substantially about sustaining institutional reforms in his final State of the Nation Address later this month, adding that she had “mourned over… the fact that our institutions have not experienced reform on a sustained basis.”
Sereno, who turned 55, is the youngest person and first woman to lead the Supreme Court. Appointed in August 2012, her term will end in 2030.
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