Friday, September 21, 2018
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At Large

Cutting short the CJ’s term

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes “Meilou” Sereno is one of the youngest magistrates to be appointed to head the Supreme Court. She is set to retire in 2030, after 20 years in office, and is thus expected to outlive many of her contemporaries in the high tribunal, save perhaps for Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who is currently the youngest person ever to sit in the Supreme Court.

Maybe that is one reason some of her colleagues are said to be conspiring with those who want her impeached, specifically by providing information and exchanges shared in executive sessions to which only the justices are privy.


But as someone who prospectively has the power to shape policy and create judicial antecedents over two decades, Sereno also has the chance to create a lasting legacy not just for the legal profession but for Philippine politics and history as a whole.

Still, the work of “shaping” the Supreme Court, and its legal and constitutional legacy, does not lie with the CJ alone. Also playing a huge role in determining the role of the Supreme Court, at least for the next two decades, are the presidents whose terms Sereno will encompass, and the appointees they will name to the High Tribunal.

Which makes me wonder why, this early in her term, the Chief Justice is facing the threat of an impeachment. Clearly, the powers-that-be, confident of the majority they hold in both houses of Congress, want her out of office.

Perhaps this is a backhanded compliment to CJ Sereno, an acknowledgement of her independence and integrity which she asserts when called for. But when one looks at the recent record of Supreme Court decisions, in many instances Sereno has been out-voted by the other justices in en banc decisions. It’s obvious she sits and votes as just one of many members of a collegial body. But even when one looks at her individual record, she has shown “partiality,” if partiality it is, in many of her votes and opinions affecting different political figures involving different political issues.

Though the CJ’s defense lawyer is Alex Poblador, who is assisted by five lawyers, other members of the legal community have rallied around her. Two of them are lawyers Jojo Lacanilao and Winnie Salumbides who volunteered their services as spokespersons for the Chief Justice.

As volunteers, they receive no compensation, said Salumbides, and the only “arrangement” they have made with the CJ is that, should she survive impeachment, she will recuse herself from hearing any of the cases where her defense lawyers happen to be involved.

“She is doing all this on her own,” Salumbides replied when asked who is providing the wherewithal for Sereno’s defense. “There is no fundraising, no ‘Piso para sa Chief Justice,’ at least not yet.”

What we are witnessing as a people is not just an extraordinary string of passive-aggressive actions against people (most of them women) who happen to get the President’s goat, but also an assault on our fundamental principles as a democracy, with our tax money used to bludgeon them to submission.

The Chief Justice is at least in good company.


* * *

This morning at nine, children throughout the world will be gathered to pray the rosary, with the special intention of “unity and peace in the world.”

This is the highlight of the campaign called “One Million Children Praying the Rosary” dedicated this year in particular to the children in Syria.

Filipino children will join this activity through the initiative of dioceses and religious communities all over the country. The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, which is behind the campaign, is calling on as many children as possible to take part in it, sending out packets to as many dioceses, communities and schools possible to encourage children’s participation.

Perhaps we don’t need to stop at recruiting the children. Since this is a cause everyone should rally around, adults would do well to join them in praying the Rosary this morning, adding our voices, our intentions and most importantly, our actions, toward achieving “unity and peace in the world.”

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TAGS: At Large, Maria Lourdes Sereno, One Million Children Praying the Rosary, Rina Jimenez-David, Sereno impeachment, Supreme Court
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