[PHOTO -Newly appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno greets her
staff on her first day of work at the Supreme Court yesterday]
MANILA, AUGUST 30, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Edu Punay - Chief Justice Ma.
Lourdes Sereno started her 18-year term yesterday by allowing the full
disclosure of her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for
The Supreme Court (SC), according to an insider, approved the release of
Sereno's SALN during a full-court session over which she presided for the first
time as the 24th chief justice and first woman appointed to the fifth highest
post in the land.
The source said it was Sereno herself who sought approval of the release of
her SALN during full-court session, based on new rules on the release of SALNs
of justices and judges.
Her SALN, however, was not released in the afternoon due to "pressing work
demand," the SC public information office said. The document is expected to be
made public today.
Sereno and other aspirants for the chief justice post had submitted their
SALNs to the Judicial and Bar Council during the screening process. They were,
however, not made public because of a confidentiality rule.
Earlier this year, she released a summary of her SALN for 2010 that showed a
total net worth of more than P17.8 million.
Her predecessor Renato Corona was removed from the top judicial post by the
Senate impeachment court last May 29 for culpable violation of the Constitution
and betrayal of public trust for failing to declare all his wealth in his SALN.

SC divisions reshuffled
During closed-door session yesterday, the justices also decided to defer
resolution of pending cases until their next meeting to give way to the
reshuffle of members of the different court divisions.
Sereno, as chief justice, becomes the chair of the first division with
Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro as working chair and Justices Lucas
Bersamin, Martin Villarama Jr. and Bienvenido Reyes as members.
Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, who was bypassed the second time around with
Sereno's appointment, remains as chair of the second division with Justices
Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez and Estela Perlas-Bernabe as
The third division is chaired by Justice Presbitero Velasco with Justices
Diosdado Peralta, Roberto Abad and Jose Mendoza as members.
The reorganization was laid down in Sereno's special order No. 1298.
Also yesterday, Sereno vowed to bring the judiciary back to its "golden days"
when there was "dignified silence" in the halls of the SC.
The new SC chief has declined requests for interviews from media outfits even
after promising to institute reforms and transparency in the high court.
Sereno explained a "dignified silence" is intended "to minimize
susceptibility to misinterpretation."
"Wisdom seeks me to return the Supreme Court to its days of dignified silence
– when its justices were heard when read through their writings, and when
actions of the Court were best seen in their collective resolutions," she
The chief justice also explained that granting media interviews might
distract her from "more fundamental and urgent problems besetting the
She stressed the judiciary is "not a political branch of government."
She stressed the high tribunal's commitment is "to be deliberate, accurate,
sober and carefully balanced before arriving at its decisions and in the
presentation of such decisions."
"We will seek ways on how to best respond to the needs of media for accurate
and timely information," she vowed.
Corona, her predecessor, was more open to media interviews. He personally
visited radio and TV programs to explain his "midnight appointment" as well as
his answers to issues raised against him during his impeachment trial.
The SC has a spokesperson tasked to deal with the media and who is
coterminous with the chief justice. Sereno has yet to name a new spokesperson as
she extended the term of acting spokesperson Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra
"until further orders."
In the long history of the high court, there have been only two
spokespersons, the first being Ismael Khan, followed by now Court Administrator
Jose Midas Marquez.
While SC employees warmly received Sereno, militant groups gathered outside
the SC building on Padre Faura in Manila to protest her appointment. They
branded her an "Aquino puppet."
The protesters led by Anakpawis echoed the fear of farmers of Hacienda
Luisita that the ruling ordering total distribution of the 4,915.75-hectare
hacienda might be reversed under Sereno's watch.
Sereno pegged the land valuation based on the fair market value of the
property in 2006, or P2.45 million per hectare. Corona wanted the computation
based on the 1989 value or just P40,000 per hectare. His opinion prevailed after
getting the support of the majority of the justices, but he was impeached by
allies of Aquino in the House a month later.
No turning back
There is nothing critics can do to make President Aquino change his mind
about appointing Sereno, whom he wants to carry out reforms in the judiciary
over the next 18 years.
"I think those attacks are really water under the bridge. The appointment has
already been made," presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
"She has taken her oath and whether it's coming from the judiciary or not,
they have to deal with the new chief justice," Lacierda pointed out.
"I think any criticism against the Chief Justice are – for all intents and
purposes – irrelevant. It's not going to sway anyone from removing her from the
position of chief justice," Lacierda explained.
"The constitutional prerogative of the President in appointing Sereno has
been exercised. Now, as to any further criticism on the Chief Justice, it will
be up to the SC public information office to speak on her behalf," he added.

Lacierda said what's important is the 52-year-old Chief Justice's capability
to implement reforms in the judiciary.
Sereno's term will cover four presidents, starting from Aquino.
"We're optimistic that she will be up to the job in implementing and
institutionalizing reforms in the judiciary, being there for a good 18 years,
that would be sufficient time for any reform to take root," Lacierda maintained.

"I think the critics would have a better way of channeling their frustration
instead of criticizing anonymously Chief Justice Sereno. The best thing they can
do is to work towards helping her implement the reforms that are badly needed in
the judiciary," he said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, for his part, asked Sereno's critics to give
her a chance to prove herself.
"Let's give her a chance to prove herself. It's very challenging... Let's
double our prayers for her to do good as chief justice," Binay told reporters.

"The selection of an insider is right because there is a protocol there.
There are do's and dont's," Binay said. "She has one of the best qualifications,
academic qualifications, among others."
'Disenchantment' temporary
For Sen. Franklin Drilon, the reported disenchantment within the Supreme
Court over the appointment of Sereno would only be temporary.
Sereno is the country's first female chief justice and the second youngest.
She is also slated to become the second longest serving chief magistrate next to
Cayetano Arellano.
"Disenchantment is natural but I think it's only temporary. I believe Chief
Justice Sereno will be able to overcome this disenchantment if she is able to
implement reforms in the judiciary," Drilon said.
He said Sereno's long term in office would help her carry out reforms more
"Reforms take time, this cannot be done overnight. The judicial ship must be
turned around slowly because an abrupt change can cause the judicial ship to
capsize," Drilon said.
He said the reforms should include ways to unclog the dockets of the courts
and facilitate the hiring of more judges.
"This is a golden opportunity (to reform the judiciary) presented by the
President who made a game-changing appointment," Drilon said.
"There is a need for stability in the judiciary," he added.
Sen. Francis Escudero said the newly installed Chief Justice should restore
the public's trust in the judicial system by speeding up the dispensation of
justice and hiring more lawyers of integrity.
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay congratulated Sereno for being the first woman
to be appointed to the top SC post and urged the chief magistrate to prove her
critics wrong.
"All eyes are on the Supreme Court now and it is up to Chief Justice Sereno
to show that she is independent and will not be beholden to the President who
appointed her into office," Magsaysay said. "With several controversial cases
still in the back burner and many judicial reforms waiting to be implemented,
Sereno will have her work cut out for her."
"People are closely keeping an eye on her next move and they will not accept
a Supreme Court with obvious leanings toward any administration," she added.
– Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero, Eva Visperas,
Jose Rodel Clapano
De Lima: No to any SC post By Edu Punay (The
Philippine Star) Updated August 29, 2012 12:00 AMComments (19)

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (photo)
said yesterday she will no longer contend for the vacancy in the Supreme Court
(SC) left by the promotion of Ma. Lourdes Sereno to chief justice last Friday.

"I am not interested in that associate justice post," she told The STAR.
De Lima said she has decided not to seek appointment to the SC and instead
focus on her duties as secretary of justice.
"I need to focus and double my efforts as SOJ, especially now that Sec. Jesse
(Robredo) is gone," she said.
The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) disqualified De Lima for the chief justice
post due to pending disbarment cases against her.
JBC members reportedly said she could be a top contender for the new vacancy
in the high court since she now has more time to secure clearance from the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
De Lima personally congratulated Sereno, saying she was "a good choice."
Still, the popular Cabinet member admitted she is not closing her doors to a
possible slot in the senatorial ticket of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) of
President Aquino, which offered her last year a slot in the lineup for next
year's polls.
"No such plans yet," she said when asked on this possibility.
De Lima bared last October that she was offered by LP president and
Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II during the 37th Philippine Business
Conference and Expo at Manila Hotel to join the administration's senatorial
De Lima admitted she was "very flattered" by the offer that came "completely
unexpected," but also expressed concern that it might invite insinuation from
critics on how the Department of Justice would resolve pending cases against
former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
She earlier admitted that she is open to seeking an elective position.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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