Sereno pledges '18 years of judicial stability'


MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno promised "18 years of judicial stability" under her leadership as she unveiled her reform program for the judiciary on Tuesday, September 18 at an anti-corruption forum organized by the Makati Business Club.

"What can be done in 18 years? A lot," the 52-year-old Sereno said. The mandatory retirement age for justices is 70.

Sereno, who was appointed chief justice in August, specified the reforms she plans to implement even as she admitted that the third branch of the government is suffering from problems of inefficiency, lack of accountability, competency issues and loss of public trust and confidence.

She said that reforms have been introduced for more than two decades, but what lacking was an "overhaul" of the system. "There were singular, episodic initiatives but a systematic overhaul was not yet done," Sereno said. "There have been many shortcomings that have not been addressed."

Sereno outlined the following initiatives:

a. Unload procurement system and slowly move to electronic procurement which has already started in government agencies;

b. Launch a public information and education program to "remind everyone the classic role of a judge," saying those who join the judiciary did not do so for "the money;"

c. Create an internal affairs office that will monitor the performance of judges;

d. Unload managerial duties - which is part of the responsibilities of judges - to professional managers;

e. Achieve a professionalized judiciary by streamlining functions;

f. Decentralize operations by reviving regional court administration offices;

g. Implement a sustainable infrastructure program

She said these programs fall within these "pillars" of reforms: restore integrity, public trust and credibility, ensure predictability and the rationale of judicial actions, improve infrastructure, and develop efficient human capacity. 

"When you are a businessman, you will understand that decisions will be palatable, rational, done in due speed," she said. 

These are on top of the judicial affidavit rule, which is seen to cut trial time by 50 percent, as well as the establishment of small claims court and other measures that were developed to expedite the resolution of cases.

Sereno told the crowd of businessmen and entrepreneurs that the SC is new to the culture of "metrics-based" performance and that adjustments are expected.

She said that she will follow the 7 rules that have guided her as an associate justice from 2010-2012:

1. She does not put herself in a situation where she cannot judge rightly. Sereno said she lives like a "recluse" because she does not want to be caught in a conflict-of-interest situation. 

2.  She deliberately live a modest life. Sereno - who declared a networth of P18 million for 2011 - said she wants to live a modest life so that she can show she is "not corrupt and that people believe she 'cannot be corrupted.'"

3. She works in a way where her "mind and soul is evident" in her work.

4. She will be truthful and will seek to build a reputation of being truthful. "I don't want to play games with anyone," she said. 

5. If injustice no longer hurts her, then she does not deserve to stay in the Supreme Court.

6. Her family must always commit themselves to keeping her integrity.

7.  Follow these rules only through the grace of God.

She said reforms under her term will be "deep and systematically implemented."

"We are moving forward, moving fast, but we're moving on solid ground," she said. -

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