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Human Face

‘Batang Kamuning’

05:30 AM March 15, 2018

If she should go down, she might as well go down with guns blazing. That is the sense that I get from embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who recently went on leave after having been advised/pressured by the majority of her colleagues in the Supreme Court.

Everything has been thrown at her but the kitchen sink. The House of Representatives has voted to impeach her and bring her case to the Senate for trial, the outcome of which could be iffy.

And so Solicitor General Jose Calida came out of left field by filing a quo warranto motion with the Supreme Court (now without Sereno who is on leave) that could nullify her appointment six years ago in 2012. Which leaves many asking: If Sereno is a high government official with credentials and is being impeached, what is there to nullify? And if her appointment is nullified, who is there to impeach? Oxymoronic?

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So gather more ammunition while ye may. Bring the shrinks to the House hearing to rat against her and disclose to the public the results of the psychological tests required by the Judicial and Bar Council, the scrutiny of which, by the way, she had passed. (In last week’s column I wrote about the unethical disclosures and the Psychological Association of the Philippines’ statement.) Sereno went on to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court; she was eventually appointed to its highest post by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The Solgen’s quo warranto motion seeks to nullify her appointment six years ago, with the prescription period conveniently set to have begun only on the date that her qualifying papers were discovered (that is, recently) to be incomplete. Huh!

It all stems from her alleged nonfiling of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth when she taught at the University of the Philippines. An impeachable offense?

The quo warranto motion and the din from the peanut gallery are supposed to give her an easier way down. But, no way, next option, please.

Get the Supreme Court employees and even judges to rally against her. Feigning concern for her, the clutch of red-clad “Sereno Resign” employees say in so many words that she should do herself a favor by not going through the indignity of being pulled down from her perch. The message: We do not like you, you are unpopular. Are we now watching a popularity contest?

Even those unschooled in technical legalities can smell something malodorous. To quote the late human rights lawyer and senator Joker Arroyo on the legal maneuvers of the dictatorship in the days of martial rule and on other such moves: “Like a herring lying in the moonlight, it shines and it stinks.”

The woman wants to fight back. “I will not resign,” Sereno declared in various gatherings—organized mostly by purple-clad militant women’s groups this International Women’s Month—to which she has been invited to speak her mind.

Why not? Because, she said, what is being done to her, a chief justice, could be done again and again. Woe to those with weak nerves.

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All Sereno and her supporters want is for her to have her day in court. She is raring to face her accusers. Former chief justice Hilario Davide has come out strongly to defend her right to do so.

In her Q&A with Inquirer Lifestyle’s Eric Caruncho published two Sundays ago, Sereno spoke about growing up in Kamuning, Quezon City, and how she got enrolled at the expensive Ateneo University under a college scholarship program. (She went to UP for her law degree and graduated at the top of her class.) She referred to herself as “Batang Kamuning,” using street lingo for a kid toughened by his or her environment (as in “Batang City Jail” or “Batang Tondo). Kamuning is not exactly a tough neighborhood, but it is not a gated enclave either.

We citizens now find ourselves in a legal wilderness where might is right. Like a cackle (how scientists call it) of salivating hyenas closing in, Sereno’s adversaries might yet find out how a stricken lioness can spring back and fight to the death.

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TAGS: Human Face, Jose Calida, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Maria Lourdes Sereno, quo warranto petition, Sereno impeachment, Supreme Court
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