Sereno: Dialogue key to judicial reform

Purple S. Romero

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IBP president Roan Libarios calls on the Chief Justice to reach out to other justices

GIVE US TIME. Sereno appealed to the public to give the judiciary room for process of "reflection."

MANILA, Phiippines – Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno said “dialogue among members of the judiciary” would lead to changes in the third branch of the government. She stressed that judicial reform must “not be dependent solely upon the personality of the chief justice” but should be a “product of collective decision.”

Sereno said this in her first speech as chief justice at the Presidents of Law Associations in Asia conference on Wednesday, August 29.

Sereno’s call for a dialogue came amid reports that some justices have not taken her appointment well. What triggered this observation was the absence of senior justices in her oath-taking on August 25 in Malacañang.

Roan Libarios, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said that this was understandable, since justices are now undergoing a “period of adjustment.”

“I understand what senior justices feel; they’re also [human beings],” he said. “They were bypassed in favor of a junior justice and they think she was appointed because she’s close to the President. But in due time, there will be adjustments and our being Filipinos and regard for the Constitution will prevail,” he said.

Libarios said that to unify the SC, Sereno should reach out to the other justices.

Sereno, 52, will be serving for 18 year as chief justice, or when she reaches the mandatory age of 70. She bypassed 4 senior justices who were also shortlisted for the position.

Her appointment leaves one SC seat vacant. As of today, there are 14 members of the High Tribunal including Sereno.

The High Court is perceived to be factionalized following the impeachment trial and removal of Renato Corona. Sereno herself came close to testifying against him; the SC however barred her and other employees from appearing before the impeachment court.

Environmental, technological changes

In her speech, Sereno said the judiciary can be responsive if it redefines itself given public expectations and demand for transparency, on one hand, and the need to be “removed from the passion of politics and intense discussion on the shaping of the society,” on the other.

Sereno added that the SC has to confront the challenges brought about by environmental and technological changes. She said the judiciary must create measures to ensure the physical integrity of judicial records and minimize the use of paper. This addresses problems caused by floods and the cutting of trees, she said.

She said that the judiciary must also learn how to deal with a public that’s now on social media. “We have a young population which is technologically savvy, opinions are shaped not just by school, media or family, but by social media,” she said.

Sereno said that while the judiciary must now “undertake the process of reflection,” Filipinos must give the institution room and time to do so.  

“My final plea is for Filipinos and foreign friends to continue imploring the aid of God, for the people to be proud of a judiciary which serves,” she said. –

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