Sereno: I will be independent

Purple S. Romero

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Newly appointed Chief Justice Ma Lourdes Sereno says she will keep her oath of office faithfully until her term ends

MANILA, Philippines – Newly-appointed Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno said the public can be assured of her “independence” amid concerns she would end up toeing the line of the administration.

“There are great things that we can do as a nation,” she told reporters. “We must just rely on the Almighty God whom the Constitution has actually asked us to continue pleading to.”

Sereno, named chief justice by President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, August 24, has voted in favor of Malacañang in politically-sensitive cases.

These cases involved President Aquino’s actions to pin down the past president – now incumbent Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – and her allies for alleged irregularities.

Sereno voted in favor of Malacañang in the following:

a. Truth Commission: The majority ruled in 2010 that the the commission, which was formed to probe Arroyo, was unconstitutional. Sereno voted otherwise.

b. The issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez: The then Ombudsman had asked the SC in 2010 to stop the committee on justice in the House of Representatives from proceeding with the impeachment hearing against her. The majority voted to grant her petition; Sereno dissented.

c. The issuance of a TRO sought by Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel: The SC issued a TRO in 2011 which stopped the Department of Justice from enforcing its travel ban against the Arroyo couple. Sereno disagreed with the decision.

d. The TRO issuance that stopped the disclosure of the dollar accounts owned by then Chief Justice Renato Corona: The PsBank had sought the TRO after Corona’s dollar accounts were brought up in his impeachment trial at the Senate. The majority voted for the issuance of the TRO. Sereno dissented.

e. The release of SC records and appearance of Court employees in Corona’s impeachment trial: Sereno voted in favor of providing the Senate with Court documents related to the allegations brought up by the prosecution against Corona, as well as in allowing Court employees to testify before the impeachment court. 

Sereno was one of those who was asked to testify against Corona at the time. The SC barred her from testifying.

f. The distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmers: Sereno voted in favor of distributing the 4,000-hectare sugar plantation to farmers, but said land valuation for the just compensation of the Cojuangco family (the family of President Aquino’s mother) should be pegged at the 2006 value (P2.5 million/hectare), and not the 1989 fair market value (P40,000/hectare). 

It will now be worth noting how Sereno will vote in the next cases involving the Aquino administration.

First cases on her plate include the constitutionality of a Department of Justice circular authorizing the DOJ to issue hold departure orders, and the legality of the DOJ and the Commission on Elections joint panel that probed the Arroyo couple for their alleged involvement in electoral fraud in the 2007 senatorial elections.

Like Robredo

Sereno added that she will see to it that the good example set by the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo will be followed in the SC.

“My thoughts are also with the family of Secretary Robredo. They can be assured that the good governance initiatives started from the life of a very good man will find resonance here in our Court,” she said.

Robredo died in a plane crash on August 18.

Sereno, who will serve as chief justice for 18 years, said she will keep her oath of office “faithfully” until her term ends. –

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