Sereno on reforms: It’s about people
The Philippines’ first female chief justice says she is determined to pursue reforms in the judiciary

MANILA, Philippines – In a rare press conference, the Philippines’ first female chief justice says she is determined to pursue reforms in the judiciary.

Paterno Esmaquel reports. (Watch Rappler’s video report below.)

(The script of the video report follows.)

Behind the dance moves, the Chief Justice says the Cebu Dancing Inmates represent what’s wrong with the justice system.

In a rare press conference, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno talks about inmates for whom justice is delayed because of an inefficient judiciary.

MARIA LOURDES SERENO, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: You cannot understand the sense of irony I felt and the sadness that was there, when, after dancing to very energetic, modern beats, you would see these prisoners crying, simply because they feel that a system should not be designed or should not be tolerated where they hearings get reset only every 4 months at the earliest, or even 6 months. That is something that is not tolerable. So the clear message is, it is no longer business as usual.

Sereno vows to decongest court dockets, but admits there’s no single way to do this.

JOSE MANUEL DIOKNO, DEAN, COLLEGE OF LAW DE LA SALLE: One of the biggest stumbling blocks… is the issue of the accountabiity of judges.

Sereno also promises to run after corrupt judges.

She asks the public to testify against them by filing affidavits.

MARIA LOURDES SERENO, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: That is the kind of evidence that will send a chilling effect, in fact an inhibitive effect, on those who believe, or those who starting to believe, that they can gain money from the system. We intend to crack down, really, on the wayward ones.

Sereno admits it’s difficult to change the judicial system.

MARIA RESSA, CEO, RAPPLER: What is the biggest problem that you’ve had to deal with?

MARIA LOURDES SERENO, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: Maria, this is a 112-year-old institution that has never had the kind of spring-cleaning that all institutions should normally have periodically…You can just imagine the kind of work. And this is where the advantage of being a female, who has had to multitask, and who virtually has 10 hands doing things at the same time, has afforded me. It is natural for me to multitask.

She says she is driven to reform the judiciary by the people who suffer from its defects.

MARIA LOURDES SERENO, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: At the end of the day, any efficiency step we make is all about the human individual and the people he cares about. We are helping people. We are helping lives to be rebuilt, we are helping families to go on, and rise from morass of the problems that accompany any legal entanglement.

It’s a challenge for the first female chief justice, the second youngest and one who will be around for 17 more years.

Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila


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