Sereno: Justices’ grudges against me their problem, not mine
MANILA, Philippines – Much has been said against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, arguably topped by the rant of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro before the House committee on justice: “Hanggang kailan kami magtitiis (Until when will we suffer)?”
In a Rappler Talk interview on Thursday, February 15, Sereno appeared undeterred by such pronouncements.
“‘Yung mga ganoong bagay, ‘yung nagsabi ang kailangan mag-isip noon. Sila na ang magtimbang sa mga ganoong salita. Hindi ko problema ‘yun (Those kinds of things, the ones who made the statement are the ones who should ponder on it. They should be the ones to weigh those kinds of words. That’s not my problem),” she said.
The Chief Justice has been accused of "transgressions" or mainly acts allegedly not sanctioned by the en banc. They range from court policies like decentralization and digitizing of the courts, to the purchase of a Land Cruiser and alleged lavish travels and accommodations.
So far, Associate Justices De Castro, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Diosdado Peralta, Andres Reyes, and Samuel Martires; and retired justice Arturo Brion had spoken out against Sereno during the impeachment hearings at the House.
On February 12, Peralta said there was “manipulation” and “injustice” in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) when it shortlisted Sereno to be justice, in view of the "missing" Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth or SALNs on some years when she was a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).
To this, Sereno said: “The testimonies are self evident, whether they are professional reasons for raising concerns, or non-professional reasons, I think the viewers can very well judge that. It’s quite clear what the reasons are for the impeachment."
“Their statements reflect more on them than on me, and especially when the other side of the story is finally unveiled, and I’m referring of course, as everybody would understand, to a highly probable Senate trial, I think everything will be revealed," she added.
Sereno acknowledged that her “out-of-the-box” appointment in 2012 broke tradition in a way that it “gives rise to questions being raised about leadership.” She bypassed more senior justices, including De Castro who had said that Sereno's appointment disappointed her.
In 2015, Sereno told Rappler that despite the "high emotions" stoked by her appointment, she could still consider the Court "professional."
Could she still say the same now? “I believe when it comes to court productivity, I could maintain that statement, because from 3,000 to 4,000 decisions a year, we are now 6,000 reaching 7,000,” she said.
“Having said that, that means there is a way for managing emotions so they don’t get in the way of productivity. I am trying my best to ensure that the output of the Court is something that Filipinos can be proud of,” Sereno said.
Surely, there has to be a healing process within the SC after all that’s been said and done. Does she see the need to start reaching out to the justices to settle personal differences?
“There are only a limited number of things we can do to address the emotions of others. Largely how you deal with your emotions is your personal accountability. If the other person wants you to be on good terms again and you’re not going to allow them because of your difficulty of managing your emotion, that’s the problem of the person who has those kinds of emotions,” Sereno said.
The Chief Justice said she's proud of her achievements in the High Court in the last 5 years, including its great progress in digitizing the court system. It's a legacy that the impeachment proceedings cannot take away from her, she said.
"I manage my pain, I manage all of this in a way that is required of a leader in a very important branch of the government, and I'm trying to set an example," Sereno said. – Rappler.com