By Emil Jurado
Manila Standard Today
Despite the mixed reactions to the appointment of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who will be the “primus inter pares” or first among equals in the Supreme Court for the next 18 years, her appointment was not entirely unexpected.
During the Judicial and Bar Council deliberations, my inside information was that the chief justice post was a tossup between Sereno and Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima, both perceived as President Aquino’s favorites.
Recall that Sereno voted in the President’s favor on two landmark decisions. First was against the temporary restraining order on the Department of Justice’s watch list order on former President Gloria Arroyo. Second was on the land valuation for Hacienda Luisita, which would serve as the basis for the compensation that the President’s family would receive in the implementation of land reform. Sereno wanted the Cojuangcos to receive P10 billion.
For her part, De Lima did not have any qualms about acting as the President’s Doberman, displaying her loyalty to and support for Mr. Aquino against all odds. She thus felt entitled to her nomination as chief justice, never mind delicadeza and probity.
True enough, when the Judicial and Bar Council did not include de Lima in its short list, President Aquino himself showed his displeasure. Was this not an insult to the other nominees including Sereno herself whom the President ended up appointing?
I am not saying that Sereno does not deserve her appointment. I was actually impressed when I saw her interview with the JBC. Her track record also speaks volumes about her fitness for the post.
She must bear in mind at all times, though, that as chief justice, she must work right away to restore the public’s confidence in the Judiciary. This branch of government has been damaged by incompetence and corruption, as well as by the impeachment, conviction and ouster of its former leader.
Sereno must prove everybody who says she is the Doberman of the President wrong.
She also has to prove that she can take on challenges despite her being the youngest member of the court. Can she have ascendancy over the more senior members of the court? Note that there were only four justices who attended her oath-taking in Malacañang. Where were the others and what does their absence say about their support for the new chief justice?
I am worried that it may take months before Sereno can get acquainted with all the problems of the Judiciary. First of these is the great backlog of cases. Her problem was that she was never a judge. As such, she does not have first hand knowledge of the difficulties of judges in all parts of the country.
There are also no less than 50,000 warrants of arrest and distraints on levy that are unserved because of negligence on the part of lower courts or the sheriff’s office, or corruption.
Will she be independent? Only time will tell.
Another thing that bothers me is Sereno’s score in the psychological test conducted for the JBC screening. She got a 4 where 5 is the lowest score.
According to the leaked report, Sereno had been found “dramatic and emotional, she appears energetic and is all smiles and agreeable, but with religious preoccupation in almost all significant aspects of her life. She projects a happy mood, but has depressive markers, too. THERE IS A STRONG TENDENCY TO MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON CURRENT MOOD. THUS, OUTCOME IS HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS.” Caps mine.
Obviously, President Aquino disregarded the JBC tests. Still, because of this, two noted jurists – Supreme Court Justice Diosdado Peralta and retired Justice Regino Hermosisima – did not vote for Sereno. Need I say more?
There has been a lot of hypocrisy in connection with the paeans, accolades and honors heaped by Malacañang upon the late Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, Jesse Robredo.
We all know that Robredo was not the choice of the President in the DILG post. He wanted Vice President Jejomar Binay instead, but Liberal Party stalwarts Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Senator Franklin Drilon opposed this. They wanted somebody from the LP in this post because it would be crucial to elections. This was why Robredo was not appointed in a permanent capacity until after a year. This was also why he was never confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.
And then, Robredo was never really in charge of the Philippine National Police. Instead it was the President’s shooting mentor and buddy Undersecretary Rico Puno who was in charge.
Still there is no doubt that Robredo deserves all the praises. He was a rare public servant, May he rest in peace.