Psychologist says CJ displayed symptoms of mental disturbance
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has displayed five of nine symptoms of “mental disturbance,” according to a psychologist who assessed her fitness based on allegations aired throughout a 15-week hearing by the House justice committee on a complaint for her impeachment.
During the 15th and last clarificatory hearing on Tuesday evening, expert witness Geraldine Tria said she would not have recommended Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice of the Philippines based on the committee’s findings.
Tria also cited the evaluation made by two Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) psychiatrists in 2012, in which Sereno got the second-lowest score of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5.
The JBC vets candidates for the Supreme Court and submits a short list of the most qualified candidates to the President.
In 2012, Sereno made it to that list despite her being the most junior justice on the Supreme Court.
Resentment on the court
Then President Benigno Aquino III appointed Sereno Chief Justice, disregarding the seniority tradition on the Supreme Court, which caused resentment among the justices that they openly showed as she began her 18-year term.
Tria said Sereno’s intelligence quotient (IQ) of 109 was “average” and such an applicant should not have been considered because the position required “more responsibility, decision-making.”
“If a person is vying for a high position … and yet the mental ability is just mediocre, why? There are other applicants who have a higher score,” she said.
Tria listed the first four symptoms of mental disturbance displayed by Sereno—grandiosity, preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success and power, sense of entitlement, and tendency to be “interpersonally exploitative,” or taking advantage of others for her own ends.
According to the psychologist, Sereno exhibited these symptoms in her purchase of a bulletproof luxury vehicle—to which the highest-ranked officials were entitled for security reasons—as well as her tendency to “totally ignore” the Supreme Court’s collegial character.
Tria said Sereno seemed to be a “power-tripper” based on the committee’s findings, because of her tendency to “disrespect other members of the court and substitute her own ideas and opinions.”
Lack of empathy
The fifth and “very crucial” symptom, according to the psychologist, was Sereno’s “lack of empathy and sensitiveness to the need of the other members of the community,” as shown by her delayed action on the release of the survivorship benefits of the spouses of deceased judges and justices.
Tria limited her assessment to just the five symptoms, admitting that she had “no way of observing her objectively.”
“I do not know her actually,” Tria said.
But Sereno “fails” when it comes to her emotional well-being, because “it affects the work force,” she said.
“She doesn’t get along with the other justices … If she could not adjust to her coworkers, how much more other people?” Tria said.
The JBC psychiatrists, Genuina Ranoy and Dulce Lizza Sahagun, divulged the results of their evaluation of Sereno in a closed session, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.
But Ranoy and Sahagun said during the public hearing that they agreed with Tria’s assessment.
Before the justice committee held an executive session for most of the evening, JBC member Maria Milagros Fernan-Cayosa clarified that a score of 4 in the psychometric evaluation was not a ground for an applicant’s disqualification.
JBC confidentiality rules
The JBC refused to furnish the committee with Sereno’s psychiatric records because of the council’s confidentiality rules, which lawmakers argued did not apply because it was acting as an impeachment body.
In a press statement, Sereno’s camp said the House had “no business scrutinizing the result of the psychological exam … because it did not constitute grounds for impeachment under the Constitution.”
“Expanding and redefining the grounds for impeachment is itself a violation of the constitutional provision,” said lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, a spokesperson for the Chief Justice.
In a press briefing in Quezon City, Lacanilao brushed aside Tria’s statements to the House justice committee.
“That’s her opinion. But the opinion of the Judicial and Bar Council when [the Chief Justice] was appointed in 2012, she’s qualified,” he said.
“Until that expert is placed on the witness stand in the Senate, [the report] remains irrelevant. I don’t know what the House will do with her testimony, but we will challenge it at the Senate,” he added. —WITH A REPORT FROM JHESSET O. ENANO