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Experts slam ‘misuse’ of psychological assessment vs CJ

/ 07:38 AM March 03, 2018

A professional group of psychologists on Friday criticized the “misuse” of the 2012 psychological assessment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno during the House committee hearings on the impeachment complaint against her.

The Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) also condemned the “misleading” information and conclusions about Sereno’s psychological fitness to serve as Chief Justice.

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For specific purpose

“A psychological assessment is often conducted for a specific purpose and should only be used for that purpose” and that such an assessment was done through scientific methods but “not perfectly accurate,” the PAP said in a position paper posted on its website.

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“To use a psychological assessment conducted in 2012 [which was for the purpose of Chief Justice Sereno’s appointment] for the current legislative proceedings is a misuse of those results,” it added.

While saying that it was not taking any position on the impeachment complaint, PAP criticized the use of confidential psychological information.

“We condemn the unethical practice of using confidential psychological information for purposes of discrediting or damaging a person’s character,” the group said. “Even if psychological test results become public documents, this does not grant permission for anybody to use it for any purpose other than its original intent.”

PAP also rebuked statements that said Sereno had “failed” the evaluation, calling these “misleading” because psychological assessments were not pass-or-fail tests.

During the last hearing on the impeachment complaint by the House justice committee on Tuesday, psychologist Geraldine Tria said she would not have recommended Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice, citing an evaluation by two Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) psychiatrists.

Second-lowest score

In a closed session, Genuina Ranoy and Dulce Lizza Sahagun, who conducted the evaluation in 2012, divulged the results, in which Sereno reportedly got the second-lowest score of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5.

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Tria, who served as an “expert witness” for the justice committee, said Sereno allegedly displayed five of nine symptoms of “mental disturbance.”

But PAP criticized the conclusions, which Tria said were based on the allegations aired throughout the 15-week hearing.

“Decisions and recommendations are derived from psychological assessments that use a combination of methods, such as interview, observation, standardized norm-referenced tests and relevant informal tools,” the group explained.

It stressed that good practices entailed the application of all methods, as using only one or two would be inadequate.

Misleading

“If a psychologist bases his or her assessment on only one of these methods or from secondhand reports, then conclusions about ‘mental disturbance’ based on alleged symptoms that indicate such a condition are misleading, if not inaccurate,” PAP added.

Sereno’s camp had earlier brushed aside Tria’s testimony, saying that it was not a ground for impeachment.

“That’s [Tria’s] opinion. But the opinion of the JBC when [Sereno] was appointed in 2012, she’s qualified,” said Sereno spokesperson Jojo Lacanilao.

“Until that expert is placed on the witness stand in the Senate, [her statements] remain irrelevant,” he added.

According to her website, Tria is a “certified psychologist specializing in marriage annulment and family adoption cases.”

She is also a “fellow member” of the PAP, where she had served in the board of directors for two consecutive terms.

Before the “professionalization” of psychology in the country, she was certified by PAP as a clinical psychologist, according to her website.

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TAGS: chief justice, Impeachment, PAP, Sereno
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