It is too early to rate newly appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno. The appointment itself is first class, continuing President Aquino's penchant for finding good, sincere, honest, bright, capable people to put into key offices. But the proof is in the judicial pudding and that will take a couple of years to bake.
I laugh when the antis condemn the President for picking a judge who has ruled sympathetically to his own thinking, for instance, on the attempted midnight escape of ex-President Arroyo. As if the President would be smart to pick someone sure to UNDERMINE his efforts to build a responsible, honest, capable Philippine government. Like that would be smart! Hoo ha.
There is no doubt that CJ Sereno has the POTENTIAL to be rated First Class as a Chief Justice. She has the knowledge of law, the independence of thinking, the intelligence and the experience to be successful. But she must do some very important things to prove her mettle:
Wean herself from the Executive Branch.
|Okay, good joke. Now get to work!|
Okay, smiles and cheers, we are all on the same page here, happy with the appointment, as we can see in the enclosed photo grabbed from the PCIJ blog. But the Judiciary must stand independent so that it can responsibly and independently rule on cases that involve the Executive Branch.
CJ Sereno must show, without question, that she is not a lackey of the President. She does not have to rule against him to do that. She has to rule intelligently and forthrightly with a keen eye on the law. History suggests she can do this.
Assure Transparency and Honorableness
Judges in the Philippines do not reveal their personal wealth. You know the reason as well as I do: enrichment derived from determinations "in law" that go to the litigating party that pays the most. This must change or the courts will remain suspect. SALN's must be the rule, not the exception. And the transparency has to be in enough detail to track the money year-to-year.
The excuses for continuing to operate in secret are infantile. "People will harass them. Their families will be open to kidnapping if their wealth is evident." So on the infinitesimal chance harm might come to a judge, the whole judicial system is opened to bribes and secretive behavior.
- You know, my scale of pros and cons broke when I loaded those arguments on. Snapped.
The notion that judges are on the take is disgusting. The place where the law is rendered simply must be impeccable to be respectable.
CJ Sereno must clean up the corruption and get judges focused on law, not favoritism. Transparency of financial records is an important first step.
The Judiciary has in place some of the basic disciplines to drive toward better efficiency. For example, the number of rulings issued by court are tracked. This kind of statistical accountability is important. Not only number of cases, but cases by type, and number or percentage of cases appealed, and the record on appeal: judgments endorsed or reversed.
But the compilation of statistics is not enough.
The question needs to be asked, substantively, "What are we doing in our courts? How can we focus energies where they will do the most to build respect for law in the Philippines?"
Here is an example. Annulment hearings take a tremendous amount of judicial time. In the Philippines, marriage is a contract with no termination provision. When husband and wife both want out of the contract, the State insists that they remain in it, and holds numerous hearings to disprove assertions contrary to the State's authority. How ridiculous on two counts: (1) that so much judicial energy is spent on minor family matters where there is no serious offense, and (2) that the State sets out with the intent to prove both litigating parties wrong, for wanting an end to the marriage.
Why not simply stipulate that both parties want the marriage to end, and end it?
If this cannot be done within the Judiciary, than appeal to the Legislature for a Divorce Bill to take the hefty burden of mediating domestic issues off the courtrooms and judges.
Change the fundamental rationale of what the courts SHOULD be doing, which is to focus on the greatest harm, and get rid of the nuisance cases that take up so much time and energy.
Speed of resolution is ESSENTIAL for justice to be fair. If a case cannot be ruled on expediently, dismiss it. Stop punishing people without cause. The presumption of innocence should prevail. It scares you to release people like ex-President Arroyo? Then get the damn case to trial!!
Build Law Discipline
Philippine case law is a mess because too many rulings are based on favors and favorites rather than law. Appeals galore, reversals from this administration to the next, cases in the courts for 25 years knocking about without resolution (the Hacienda). A mess.
CJ Sereno must begin to build quality into legal renditions. Excellent, law-based judges need to be promoted. Poor judges need to be pushed down or out. Attorneys must meet rigorous ethical standards. Perhaps a scoring system is needed to evaluate attorneys on capability and performance. Not to mention judges.
Build the quality, where administrative efficiency and legal precision are fundamental requirements. Pay well for judges who demonstrate that quality. Prune the rotten fruit.
CJ Sereno's advantage is fundamentally that the Judiciary is on bottom now and the only direction is up.
Two year's of probation. Report to the people regularly.
Profile of Chief Justice Sereno (Source: abs-cbnnews.com):
Associate Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno is the first appointee to the Supreme Court (SC) by Pres. Noynoy Aquino and the youngest among the nominees for Chief Justice coming from the high tribunal.
She was born on July 2, 1960; she is 52 years old.
She completed her law degree at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1984 as Class Valedictorian and cum laude.
As pre-law, she took up AB Economics at the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) where she graduated in 1980.
She completed her secondary education in 1976 at the Quezon City High School, with Honors; her elementary education was completed in 1972 when she graduated Class Salutatorian from the Kamuning Elementary School.
She had her post-graduate degree at the UP School of Economics with the Master of Arts in Economics Program which she finished in 1992. In 1993, she completed another masteral degree, this time, Master of Laws, at the University of Michigan, Michigan, USA.
Justice Sereno was appointed to the Supreme Court on Aug. 13, 2010.
She started her career in private practice as a junior associate of the Sycip Salazar Feliciano and Hernandez law firm in 1986.
Starting in1994 up to 2008, she served as legal counsel of various government offices such as the Office of the President (OP), Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI), and WTO-AFTA. Sometime between 1995 to 1996, she headed the Information and Public Division office of the UP Law Complex.
Also, in 1995, she served as consultant for Judicial Reform of the UNDP, WB, and USAID; she served in this capacity up to 2002.
From 1996 to 1999, she was Director of the UP Institute of Legal Studies.
In 1998, she was a counsellor of the WTO Appellate Body.
In 1999, she served as Commissioner and Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform.
Sereno was a lecturer at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Foreign Service Institute from 1996 to 2007.
She served as a lecturer in Electronic Commerce Law at the AIM in 2000, at the same time, at the Murdoch University lecturing on International Business Law from 2001 t0 2002. She also lectured on International Business Law at the University of Western Australia from 2003 up to 2007.
In 2004, she was a lecturer on International Trade Law at the Hague Academy of International Law.
She was a longtime professor at the UP, teaching for 20 years, from 1986 to 2002.
She became the Executive Director of the AIM in 2009, a post she held on to for a year.
Sereno became president of ACCESSLAW, Inc. in 2000, a post she continues to enjoy up to the present.
Awards, other credentials
In her 25 years as a lawyer and educator, Sereno received the following awards:
- 1998 Outstanding Women in the Nation's Service
- 2000 Most Outstanding Alumna Award, Quezon City High School
- 2003 Most Oustanding Alumna Award, Kamuning Elementary School
- 1991 Provincial Citation, Camarines Sur
She was also able to edit the book, Thirty Years and Beyond (UP Law, 1997).
Sereno was the key writer on Law and Economics and the Constitution and Judicial Review of Economic Decisions.
She also drafted the legal framework for the operations of the first paperless trading of securities in the country for the Bureau of Treasury (BT).
Endorsements for Chief Justice, oppositions
Sereno was not automatically nominated for the top judicial post for being one of the most junior magistrates of the Supreme Court, rather, she was nominated by the following:
- Felma Roel Singco (June 13, 2012)
- Reagan De Guzman (June 13, 2012)
- Atty. Fidel Thaddeus Borja (June 14, 2012)
- Attys. Jordan Pizarras, et al. (June 15, 2012)
- Christian Legal Society through Atty. Salvador Fabregas (June 14, 2012)
- Bishop Efraim Tendero (June 18, 2012)
- UP Women's Circle (June 13, 2012)