CJ De Castro: Collegiality is back at the Supreme Court

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro said on Tuesday, August 28, that she would like to be remembered as the Chief Justice who restored collegiality to the Supreme Court (SC), an apparent swipe at her nemesis Maria Lourdes Sereno who was accused of committing transgressions at the en banc.

“I want the De Castro Court to be remembered as the Court that restored collegiality in the Supreme Court, the Court which was able to institute several reforms in the judicial processes,” De Castro told the press in her first briefing on Tuesday, shortly after she took oath before Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

She also presided over her first en banc session Tuesday morning, before the press briefing. (READ: The test of legacy for Chief Justice De Castro)

“I’m happy that I have the support of all of my colleagues. They were all present during my first day of work, and I appreciate very much the warm welcome I got from all of them...there was applause coming from them, we first saw each other, they all congratulated me, I did not perceive any untoward feeling so I’m so happy that I got the support of all of them,” De Castro said, describing the mood during her oath taking and the en banc session.

It is an anecdote that paints a stark contrast to how Sereno was received by her colleagues when she was appointed Chief Justice in 2012, and the nearly 6 years that she served with so much contention coming from within.

At the Dignitaries’ Lounge in the SC where De Castro held the briefing, the wall on the right side was bare – the portrait of Sereno had been removed, ready for the next frame.

The portrait of the ‘Sereno Court’ is gone from the Dignitaries’ Lounge pic.twitter.com/n2OdoI1Muf — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) August 28, 2018

 

More painful perhaps for Sereno, Ombudsman Samuel Martires called De Castro the first-ever female Chief Justice, erasing the historic Sereno appointment from history.

Asked about it, De Castro said: “Technically, [Martires] is correct.”

Projects

De Castro’s judicial reforms on the digitization of the court are the same projects that Sereno bannered when she was Chief Justice. De Castro’s words indicate that she may have been removed from these projects that she claims were hers from the very beginning.

“That was during the time of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, and that was continued during the time of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and during those periods I was the head of the management committee on judicial reforms support project (JRSP).... Unfortunately it was stopped after Chief Justice Corona was booted out of office,” De Castro said.

A reporter asked her if there is one project that Sereno started that De Castro would like to continue. 

“Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno designated me as the head of the committee on family courts and juvenile concerns, and it was in that committee where I was able to accomplish much with respect to the processes with respect to family courts,” De Castro said.

De Castro shrugged off criticism that her appointment was a reward for voting to oust Sereno via the unprecedented quo warranto petition, slammed by many prominent legal groups as an unconstitutional way to remove a chief justice.

“I think people should just look at my track record, my long service in the judiciary, and I don’t think that one incident like you mentioned would have been enough for me to be elevated to the highest position of the judiciary,” De Castro said, adding that she had never met or spoken with President Rodrigo Duterte.

De Castro again insisted that her work as Chief Justice will not only last for two months, but for 11 years since 2007 when she was appointed to the SC.

“Whatever legacy I may leave behind when I retire is not the product of two months or weeks. I’ve been working on this for many years already,” De Castro said.

De Castro added: “We should all move on and work together for the good of our judiciary.” – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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