Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sereno: Supreme Court to be responsive to modern times


MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno vowed yesterday to reform the judiciary and make it responsive to the demands of modern times.

In her first public speech delivered before heads of law associations in Asia at Marriott Hotel in Pasay City, the new Supreme Court (SC) chief said a “process of reflection and redefining (the judiciary)” would define her reform efforts.

She said that with the country’s long history under colonial rule, many Filipinos have become used to “compulsory servitude,” and “elbowing each other out to gain a place in the sun” or “sucking up to the powerful through flattery.”

Sereno believes the judiciary should shun politics and go back to basics and reflect on issues concerning rule of law, public expectations and the demand for transparency.

She also cited the importance of the People Power and how it has demonstrated true essence of democracy that Filipinos can be proud of.

Apparently trying to reach out to her colleagues who had been her rivals for the top SC post, Sereno said instituting reforms should be a collective effort among justices.

“I believe that judicial reforms must not revolve around and be dependent solely upon the personality of the CJ. Rather it must be the product of collective vision, one forged under the leadership of the CJ. I think that inevitably these dialogues among members of the judiciary will lead to significant changes in governance present within the judiciary,” she explained.

Several senior justices did not show up during her oath-taking before President Aquino. Officials, including Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, have urged the new SC chief to “reach out” to her colleagues in the high court.

The chief justice admitted the institution she will lead in the next 18 years is facing challenges posed by “environmental and technological realities.”

“We in the judiciary must watch and respond effectively to these changes taking place,” she said. “We in the judiciary have to move fast to improve the delivery of our service,” she pointed out.

One of the solutions, she said, is paper-less system in courts: “We need to think of our judicial records and ensure their physical integrity when disaster strikes. We have to rethink our paper-based system, and usher in a judicial system that is less paper dependent,” she said.

“We have to do our share in minimizing the amount of trees cut down with more paper demands.”

The chief justice also bared plans to “rethink the deployment of our human resources considering migration patterns in shaping our city will increasingly explode in time.”

The SC under her watch, she said, would also look into its “internal communication strategies and that also of our external relations.”

Sereno closed her speech by calling on the public to “give the judiciary room to undertake the process of reflection.”

She then left the event shortly after asking members of the media to understand her decision not to grant interviews.

“Please be patient as I take very good care in ensuring that I am exact, deliberate and careful at all times. I wish you all the best. Mabuhay,” she told reporters during an ambush interview.

‘Good policy’

Sereno’s policy of “dignified silence” drew praises from Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

“Under the judicial code of conduct, we are not supposed to talk openly about official affairs. Even RTC (regional trial court judges) behave like that. The media, I hope, will forgive her for that policy which is based on tradition and custom,” Santiago said.

Before joining politics, Santiago was a regional trial court judge.

She said the judiciary “is a very passive institution” and that its members “cannot act unless a case is brought before them.”

“They are not even allowed to talk to the press unlike politicians,” the senator added.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna also backed Sereno’s move to refrain from granting interviews to the media.

“The integrity of the Supreme Court must be maintained and there should be no adverse issues against it because of erroneous reporting,” Angara said.

Tugna said the SC justices, in performing their functions, “must be insulated from all the publicity a particular case gets in order to effectively administer and dispense justice.”

“They should shy away from trial by publicity because they must be guided on what are the law and applicable rules and jurisprudence,” Tugna said.

Angara also challenged the 14 Supreme Court associate justices to bare their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth just as Sereno had allowed hers to be made public.

“We laud this act of (Sereno to release her SALN),” Angara said. “We wish this will be emulated by other (SC) magistrates. This is a challenge to all of them.”

He said the public will be closely watching Sereno’s next moves and those of the other justices.

Tugna also welcomed Sereno’s display of transparency.

“This is a statement that the new Chief Justice has nothing to hide. That she is accountable to the people and that she would lead the court by example,” Tugna said.

The new SC chief declined requests for interviews on her first day in office but promised to institute reforms and transparency in the judiciary.

“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 stressed.

Minority support

The House opposition bloc also welcomed Sereno’s appointment and expressed hopes she would be fair in handling cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a Pampanga lawmaker.

“As the first woman and the second youngest to hold that august position, she is already making history. And she will have 18 more years, the equivalent of one whole generation, to leave her mark on the High Court,” House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said.

“We wish to be reassured that the various cases filed against our colleague in the minority, former President Arroyo, will be given a fair and impartial hearing, if and when they may reach the justices,” he said.

Arroyo was released from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) on bail upon orders from the Pasay City regional trial court, which is hearing her electoral sabotage case.

The lawmaker is also facing a plunder case before the Sandiganbayan in connection with anomalous fund releases by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office when she was still president.

Arroyo’s doctors and allies are appealing to the courts to allow her to seek medical treatment abroad to correct a displaced titanium implant in her neck that is making eating and breathing difficult for her.


No comments:

Post a Comment