Does new Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno have enough emotional intelligence to run the Supreme Court?

Reports of the emotional health of newly-appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno continue to make discussion fodder for the Philippines’ chattering classes. Sereno is noted for being rated a four on a 1-to-5 psychological stability scale (5 being the lowest) by a test administered by the Judicial Bar Council (JBC). According to “unverified” news reports, she was allegedly characterised as “dramatic and emotional”. Yet, despite Malacañang reportedly brushing off the results of that psych test, the administration of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III has been compelled to issue statements aimed at discrediting that information…

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said such a report is deemed unconfirmed, at least for now.

“Hindi naman verified ang sources niyan, unconfirmed reports. Sinama ng JBC sa shortlist ang ngayong Chief Justice, si Chief Justice Sereno. Hindi na kami magkukumento roon,” she said on government-run dzRB radio.

When asked if the Palace considers the psychological test moot, she said, “It’s not that. [The supposed information] is not an official release from the JBC….”

Much has been said about Sereno’s relative youth and gender — a lot of it the usual positive affirmations associated with being young: “fresh perspective”, “energetic”, yadda yadda, and being female: (I’ll do the sensible thing and not comment about that). But youth is a double-edged sword. The young also lack the benefit of seasoning that comes with experience. And in a society such as the Philippines where gray hairs and a penis are held at a premium in politics, administration and leadership, Sereno is inherently disadvantaged by her brain-wiring and physiology.

To be fair, her predecessor, former Chief Justice Renato Corona was also quite the emotional basketcase over the course of his impeachment trial. He was inclined to public prayerfulness and emotional breakdowns during his court battle against Uncle Peping’s legal forces. Sympathy for Corona coming from both the public and the Senator-Judges was put in jeopardy by his walk-out from proceedings during his first appearance before the Senate Impeachment Court. And much of his testimony then and in the second time he appeared was laced with appeals to emotion.

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So much for the cold steely fortitude most of history’s truly great leaders served as exemplars of. Unfortunately, Filipinos being the drama junkies that they are reserve no amor for stoic silent types. You can see this in the way they mourn their dead — often wailing and flailing like they are trying to awake their loved ones even as their remains are lowered into a hole or shoved into a concrete niche. It is why necropolitics is so potent an opiate for the Filipino electorate. The most celebrated Filipino “heroes” die not in glory on the battlefield but as victims in sordid tales of woe — and Filipinos lap it all up: habitually launching entire political eras and catapulting whole dynasties into power on the remains of dead “victims”.

Yet, as the Deputy Speaker of the Philippines’ House of Representatives opined, one has to be emotionally switched on to see one’s self and the people one leads through challenging journeys…

[Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla] party whip of the Nacionalista Party, said Sereno would need a lot of “emotional quotient” to withstand the pressure of being the chief justice.

“Sereno has got to have a lot of EQ. They may all have equal IQs but being the best of the best requires a lot of EQ to deal with and being among equals,” Remulla said.

Perhaps the concept of “emotional intelligence” should be clarified for an entire nation of people raised on a media diet of teleseryes, idiotic comedy, and necropolitics. Emotional intelligence involves (1) knowning when and when not to exhibit emotion, and (2) having the skills and constitution to manage emotion to suit a situation. Obviously, one characterised as “dramatic and emotional” has a lot of skills upgrading to do in that department — assuming, of course, emotional intelligence can be learned.

But if we consider the latest findings coming from the emerging field of evolutionary psychology, the prospect of “learning” emotional intelligence may turn out to be another one of those consultants’ empty promises. Evolutionary psychologists hold that behaviors or traits that occur universally in all cultures are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations including the abilities to infer others’ emotions, discern kin from non-kin, identify and prefer healthier mates, and cooperate with others. In other words, one’s emotional make up is strongly determined by one’s genetic heritage — in short, there is only so much upbringing, education, and training can do as far as our core character is concerned.

In the 1998 paper Sex differences in the Big Five personality factors: Testing an evolutionary hypothesis strong evidence was found that “females showed, on average, significantly higher scores on the Agreeableness and low Emotional Stability factor than did males” and that “the differences between males and females were maximized along this factor and were not significant on all other factors”. This puts a bit of science behind what it means to be a female in power in a man’s world, and adds some perspective to the manner with which we might consider what Malacañang’s rah-rah boys celebrate about Sereno’s appointment: her being female, young, and “God-fearing”.

This is not about being sexist or ageist. This is about being scientific and grounded on the latest ideas. Indeed, when someone tells you that you have “the balls” to do the job, it is usually considered to be a compliment — even to a woman. That simply points to the reality of what it means to succeed in human society which, contrary to the insistence of some emos, is still one dominated by the male of the species. Having balls is all about not getting all girly when the pressure starts to bear down.

Who knows? Lourdes Sereno just might surprise us.

[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the article “Evolutionary psychology” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]

32 Replies to “Does new Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno have enough emotional intelligence to run the Supreme Court?”

        1. HAHA! I love how you made a reference from George Orwell’s 1984! XD

          Yeah, Fishball, I don’t understand you. You claim that Benign0’s articles suck, and yet make no effort to help him improve it (your yellow propaganda does not count). If you really hate the material here, just GTFO.

      1. @Impaler- For more of my similar references to what I THINK is going on in Malacanang (the work place of the GRP Trolls) refer to my piece that came out 3 days after Noynoy’s speech the TV Patrol Anniversary. Titled How Not To Be A Party Guest.

        1. I have to agree with you, I guess. Kung tutuusin, maganda ang pagkakasulat ng Shadow of Doubt. Pero fact-wise, meh. nevermind. Hehehe. Eloquent lang si Marites. 😛

  1. Hindi pipiliin ng presidente yan kung hndi siya magaling. Mabuti na na nandyan si Sereno upang maibalik ang tiwala ng bayan sa korte, kesa kay Corona na sunud sunoran lang kay Gloria

    1. Kawawa ka naman Fishball. Low IQ ka na nga, low EQ ka pa.

      Sabihin mo kamo, mabuti pa nandyan na si Sereno, maibabalik na HL sa mga Cojuangco.

      1. Sinabi na ng pangulo dati na hindi siya makikielam sa kaso ng HL. Paninira lang yan ng mga kaaway na. Lumang tugtugin na yan

        1. Hindi porke’t sinasabi si PNoy na hindi siya makikialam, ay hindi na siya makikialam. Huh? Sino mga kaaway niya?

          Better yet, sino mga kaaway mo?

        2. do you still believe on him?the bipolar Pres.?it is now on stage 8 of pregnancy from the day of the conceive-plan, one more steep and this gonna be a full-blown dictatorship.

        3. Lumang tugtugin daw, so anung tawag mo sa mga walang kwentang akusasyon mo kay GMA?
          Bagong tugtog? Wag ka nga magpatawa bobo.

    2. @fishball

      I just wondered… whatever happened to merit and seniority? Was she chosen because she is young or is it all about political insurance protection for the next 18 years?

  2. Yes, I agree with you. Realistically, women and youth are forced to play the old men’s game, in which they likely lose because they aren’t allowed to use anything else aside from the old man’s weapons. But since many men themselves don’t play fair, the youth’s and the women’s weapons won’t make much of a difference. I hence prefer to think of gender and age as attribute presets like from most of role-playing games: they may influence differences in beauty, strength, intelligence, etc., but the scores your avatar gains and the quests that it finishes all depend on how you play your part and use both strengths and weaknesses to your advantage.

  3. Her association with the Yellow Camp has already been the stuff of the grapevine in the past couple of years. It’s up to the CJ herself to confirm or disprove it.

  4. So that’s why he chose her. They’ll be able to understand each other, then. PNoy being a solid 21 on that scale.

  5. Benign0, you’re a much more credible source regarding politics and I agree with you about Cheif Justice Lourdes Sereno, but as someone who has studied psychology since I was a child I would like to politely disagree to the psychology posted here.

    The idea of nature vs nurture — whether we’re dictated by our genes or our environment — is a controversial topic that has a much larger more complicated nature than just “mostly our nature.” What you say about evolutionary psychology is true, but there are also other cases that argue against the nature argument.

    There is for example the studies on brain plasticity — that shows how our brains have the ability to largely change over time. IQ is more of nature, but many EQ books have shown that EQ is more of nurture. Just like how anyone has to teach a child to grow up to be more mature with their emotions and others.

    From the book The Gene : An Intimate History, there is also the new field of epigenetics that shows how new genes can be made from adapting to the environment, showing that our nurture can be nature.

    The National Academy of Sciences has discussed new research that our brains our mosaics of both genders. Yes, one gender is more likely to have a certain brain structure on average, but as individuals, most of us have a mixture of both genders in our brains.

    Thank you for informing us, but please note that when citing science looking at one study does not have the complete picture as there are many that support contradicting hypothesis.

    See you.

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