Aquino’s ‘Doberman’ in the Supreme Court


It is not at all surprising that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima kept on invoking Supreme Court Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno’s narratives as her basis for claiming that Chief Justice Renato Corona was biased for former President Macapagal-Arroyo. Nor is it surprising that Malacañang wants her to testify in trial, and that the presidential spokesman remarked that the chief justice President Aquino wants is “someone like Maylou Sereno.”

Sereno, Mr. Aquino’s first appointee to the Supreme Court, has practically acted as his—and even his clan’s—agent in the tribunal, unabashedly trying to get it to do whatever he wants. If you want a preview of how Aquino would like to mold the Supreme Court, check out Sereno’s track record in the high court.

Sereno’s appointment was unexpected, as she was at the bottom of the list the Judicial and Bar Council submitted to Mr. Aquino, despite intensive lobbying by JBC members De Lima and Rep. Niel Tupas. A respected appeals court justice topped the list, and fellow columnist Raul Pangalangan and Comelec member Rene Sarmiento had more votes—and qualifications—than her.  (The latter two could still make it to the Court though within Aquino’s term, if the impeachment court removes the Chief Justice—if it pleases the President and before that De Lima, that is.)

Sereno though was Aquino’s college buddy; she is on a nickname-basis with the yellow crowd, including his  minions, such as his spokesman. In her 18 months in the Court, Sereno has unabashedly pushed for Mr. Aquino’s agenda in the high court even to the point of scandalizing her colleagues. Judge for yourself:

Justice Antonio Carpio inhibited himself from the Hacienda Luisita case, on grounds that the firm he founded over a decade ago is indirectly involved in the controversy. Sereno would have none of that ethical standard. After all, the case would determine whether Aquino’s Cojuangco clan goes bankrupt or not.

Sereno’s dissenting opinion for the Court’s July 2011 decision—nearly book-length at 39,000 words, longer than the main ruling—was practically a legal brief for the clan’s claim for an astronomical compensation. Sereno repeated her arguments—which would mean P10-billion payment to the Cojuangcos—in another kilometric dissenting opinion for the Court’s November 2011 resolution.

The clan’s lawyers practically had little left for them to do, with their pleading in the Court simply invoking Sereno’s opinions.

Sereno’s shameless advocacy of the Cojuangcos’ claims appalled her colleagues so much that Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro angrily—and unprecedentedly—wrote in the Court document: “I maintain my vehement disagreement with Justice Sereno’s opinion which will put the land beyond the capacity of the farmers to pay, based on her strained construction/interpretation.”

Sereno’s voting and opinions in the Court have invariably reflected Malacañang’s positions with her “dissenting opinions” reading like extended versions of Mr. Aquino’s or his yellow forces’ manifestos:

On the Court’s ruling against Aquino’s Truth Commission, she wrote: “(The Court) effectively tolerates impunity for graft and corruption.” She mimics the style of yellow opinion writers when she titled a section: “Who’s Afraid of the Truth?” Echoing the Manichean mentality of an Aquino organization, she pontificates: “What is black can be called ‘white’ but it cannot turn white by the mere calling.” Her holier-than-thou posture so typical of Mr. Aquino’s yellow crowd has irritated justices so much that one wrote that Sereno “has no right to preach at the expense of the majority” since she herself committed plagiarism, and that she allegedly had not reported in her SALN the P25 million she earned as counsel in the international airport arbitration case.

She demonstrated a Doberman’s trait of unrelenting fury against its master’s enemy when she claimed in one dissenting opinion that Arroyo is responsible for extrajudicial killings in the country, for which she should be charged.

It is De Lima’s defiance of the Court’s temporary restraining order on the ban against Arroyo’s travel which bolsters suspicions that Sereno—unethically and perhaps even illegally—acted as Mr. Aquino’s fifth-column, and even his mole, in the Court.

De Lima’s defiance of the Court’s TRO was not due to, as my colleague attorney Pangalangan termed it, her “fearless stand.” De Lima was obviously coached that there was a technicality she could use to justify her defiance of the TRO.

The technicality was that the TRO’s second condition required the Arroyos’ Special Power of Attorney designating a legal representative who would, among other things, “receive summons.” However, the SPA the Arroyos issued instead had that phrase as “produce summons.” That was obviously a clerical mistake—private parties do not produce summons, courts do—which was immediately corrected.

Now who would have immediate access to the SPA the Arroyos submitted, see the clerical error, and realize that it could be used as technicality for De Lima to defy the Court’s order, buying time for her to get a Pasay court to issue an arrest order that would make the TRO moot? And who could immediately relay this information to De Lima? I can only suspect Aquino’s first appointee to the court, Sereno.

Sereno’s public disclosures of the Court’s internal matters has outraged the justices so much, that justice Roberto Abad ended his concurring opinion, obviously mad: “If our deliberations cannot remain confidential, we might as well close down business.”

In his vindictiveness against Arroyo, Mr. Aquino is wrecking havoc on the Supreme Court—and our Constitution.

E-mail: tiglao.inquirer@gmail.com

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Tags: Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno , Benigno Aquino III , Impeachment Court , impeachment trial , judiciary , opinion , Outlook , Rigoberto Tiglao , Secretary Leila de Lima , Supreme Court

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