Since way back in 2012, the disturbing results of Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno’s psychiatric evaluation, her inability to earn the respect of her peers in the high court, her non-compliance to rules regarding disclosure of her personal assets and liabilities, and the questionable motivation behind her appointment as Chief Justice by then President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, had long served as robust foundation for numerous indictments against her claim to her role as Chief Justice.
Granted, those who defend her make a good single point — that only an impeachment can remove Sereno from office. That highlights the significant damage Aquino did to the Supreme Court when he appointed Sereno to head the high court back in 2012. In prioritising his personal agenda over choosing a qualified person to fill the role, Aquino not only sentenced the Supreme Court to be subject to a lame-duck Chief Justice for the foreseeable future, he also exposed the Filipino people to potentially tens of millions of pesos in costs to do with an impeachment proceeding that will likely be needed to correct Aquino’s idiotic decision in 2012.
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Even more interesting, the Philippine media have mounted what seems to be a concerted effort to turn Sereno into another one of those victim-cum-“heroes” that form the cast of characters of the narrative of the Liberal Party (a.k.a. the Yellowtards). It’s another instance of that old familiar approach of insulting Filipinos’ intelligence on the vast scale that only mainstream traditional media could pull off. This can be seen in a recent feature on Sereno published in, get this, the Lifestyle section of the Inquirer. In “CJ Lourdes Sereno: The ‘Batang Kamuning’ in fighting form”, author Eric S. Caruncho describes Sereno as a “lioness” being set upon by hyenas “working in packs”.
Caruncho then proceeds down that old familiar path of creating the sort of “hero” Yellowtards gush about — humble beginnings, working-class roots, victims of circumstance, etc. That’s all par for the course as far as Yellowtard Hero Design 101. What is noteworthy, however, is the way Caruncho glosses over the manner with which Sereno was chosen by Aquino to be Chief Justice. Instead, Caruncho makes it look like Sereno’s journey to the top was on the back of merit…
Sereno graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law—the class valedictorian—and embarked on the distinguished legal career that would eventually lead to her appointment as the country’s first female chief justice of the Supreme Court at age 52, replacing the impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The fact is, Sereno’s appointment to Supreme Court Chief Justice was political in nature like all those that came before her. But, unlike her predecessors, she went on to prove to be unprepared for what happens next. Whilst being an academically competent lawyer is one thing, actually stepping up to head an entire branch of government is an altogether whole different kettle of fish. From Day One, Sereno had struggled to earn the respect of her peers in the high court. This is not surprising considering that the SC, at the time of her appointment, was still reeling from the circus — also engineered by Aquino — that was the “impeachment trial” of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Evidently, the other justices never quite got over that episode.
The Philippines’ judiciary is the only one of the three branches of government where specific qualifications (not mere popularity) are required of its officers. The way the Yellowtards are fashioning Sereno’s public persona in the image of traditional Yellowtard “heroes” like “vice president” Leni Robredo — them prayerful and Laban-dera types — shows a lack of appreciation of the difference between elected officials and qualified officials. Then again, popularity could work, in this instance, if we consider that it will be a body of popularly-elected represenatives of the Filipino people (in the form of a Senate impeachment court) that will ultimately decide Sereno’s fate. Unfortunately for the Yellowtards, that very same dependence on popularity will likely work against them if that option is invoked as well, seeing that Congress remains Duterte country for now.
Either way, this whole circus — pop-up impeachments, lame-duck Chief Justices, and wasted taxpayers’ funds — could have all been prevented had Aquino been a bit more circumspect about his vendetta against Corona in the first couple of years of his presidency. All this, ultimately, is former President BS Aquino’s fault.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.