The Philippines: ‘Biased 5’ may yet redeem Judiciary

May 28, 2018

Image result for maria lourdes sereno

In the minds especially of five Supreme Court justices, Maria Lourdes Sereno has defiled the Judiciary. They – Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, and Noel Tijam – are probably right.

When the Chief Justiceship was vacated in 2012 Sereno was, at 52, the youngest and newest of the 14 SC Associates. Most of the rest were over 14 years her senior. Yet in the subsequent search for a new CJ she applied for the post, alongside the then most tenured ones. The newbie broke the time-honored tradition in the courts of seniority. That, the five justices likely think today, was raw ambition, a form of the first deadly sin of pride.

Then came the eliminations. Of the 64 applicants, 22 were interviewed by the Judicial and Bar Council. And of the 22, eight got the highest JBC votes. Sereno reportedly rated low in the psychological test. Worse, she was unable to submit seven of her ten prior years’ Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, as a state university professor. The SALNs were supposed to be proofs of integrity, a qualification for public office. Yet somebody in the JBC had waived the ten-year compilation by Sereno. The papers would have shown if she truly had declared some P30 million in professional fees as government legal counsel during five of those ten years.

Despite those defects Sereno joined the eight JBC nominees shortlisted for the President’s selection as CJ. Again the newbie broke the rules. Our five justices disavow awareness of it then. Peralta, as most senior SC justice not nominated for CJ, had chaired the JBC search. Had he known of Sereno’s lacking submissions, he swore recently at the House of Representatives, he would have dumped her.


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