BY EVANGELINE DE VERA
DOES the “dignified silence” at the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno mean shutting down its Public Information Office, that one office where media could get access to the court?
An order issued last August 25, a copy of which was obtained by Malaya Business Insight, showed that Sereno deemed all 30 personnel at the PIO, led by its acting chief Gleo Guerra, terminated effective until October 31, without prejudice to re-appointment.
The order was issued right after Sereno was sworn in by President Aquino following her appointment as chief justice on August 24.
All PIO personnel, including former SC spokesman and court administrator Jose Midas Marquez, are actually co-terminus with impeached chief justice Renato Corona, but their services were extended, except Marquez’, during the brief tenure of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as acting chief justice following Corona’s ouster last May.
Marquez, however, retained his post as court administrator, it being a plantilla position.
When Sereno was appointed to the top judicial post, she extended the PIO’s services until end of October, in line with her policy of bringing back the court to its “golden days of dignified silence – when justices were heard when read through their writings, and when the actions of the court were best seen in their collective resolutions,” and not through the media.
Last week, Sereno said she will engage the services of various “communicators” who will deal with the media in various capacities. One such communicator was deputy court administrator Raul Villanueva, who was designated to speak for judicial reforms.
Guerra, in a phone interview, denied there was an order to dissolve the PIO which she said was created through an en banc resolution. Thus, it would take another en banc resolution to close it down, she said.
“The PIO is under the office of the chief justice, therefore, the Chief Justice should have a free hand or the full discretion to choose who she will place in that office,” she said.
The PIO came into being in 1998 during the term of Chief Justice Hilario Davide, who had envisioned to bring the high court closer to the people, and even described it as the coming down of the so-called gods from Mt. Olympus and the opening of the fortress that is the Court, owing to the “secrecy” of its deliberations.
Aside from the PIO, Sereno also terminated starting October 31 the tenure of Alexander Arevalo, assigned at the office of the chief justice and head of the Management Information Systems Office (MISO).
The MISO is the computer technology arm of the SC tasked with providing technical expertise on the formulation of system design studies and application system development as well as support services on hardware maintenance to help the court establish a state-of-the-art information technology in its computerization efforts.
MISO also manages various websites within the judiciary.gov.ph domain.
Sereno recommended for appointment certain persons to positions in the Office of the Chief Justice and/or the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, and in the Rollo Room, effective immediately.
They were: Edwin Mendoza, as executive assistantI; Jocelyn Atienza, court stenographer; Myrna Manzanilla, court stenographer; Ma. Theresa Maniquis, court stenographer; Jasmin Soner, judicial staff (casual), PET, effective until Dec. 31, 2012; and Rolando Gabriel, judicial staff (casual), PET, also until end of December.