MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) does not need “healing” despite the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, according to Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Sereno, one of the nominees for the next Chief Justice, denied that factions were formed in the Supreme Court following Corona’s impeachment.
“Ano po ba ang ihe-heal natin? Wala namang hidwaan at gaya ng sabi ng isang justice, walang factions,” Sereno said on Friday during her interview with the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Sereno, who answered most of the questions in Filipino, shared that in less than 24 hours after Corona was impeached, the SC justices came together “to move unanimously to ensure that nobody [would] doubt that the court is in business.”
“May quality ang sitting justices ngayon to get along well with each other but still maintain their independence in a collegial body,” she said.
She said that heated arguments related to cases do not affect the relationships of the justices.
Sereno said if ever she is appointed as Chief Justice, she will lead a court hinged on credibility, morality and accountability.
“My leadership will be marked by a willingness to create a generation of judges who are going to commit themselves to lives of uprightness and excellence,” she said.
Sereno, who described herself as someone who is living a “semi-recluse” life, said she is willing to undertake the necessary sacrifices to make her vision for the Judiciary alive.
“Kailangan mamuhay ako sa isang paraan na makita ng mga tao na hindi ako pwedeng maging corrupt,” she said.
Sereno also said she continues to strive to avoid situations that would put her in a position which would create a conflict of interest.
She added that the public’s trust is key to an efficient court system.
“Dapat hindi nila pagisipan na may kalokohan ka, dapat naniniwala sila na ang intensyon mo ay hindi mali because the essence of justice is trust. Kailangan maniwala ang mga tao sa mga mahistrado,” she said.
Sereno said her decisions are always based on her faith and dependence on God.
JBC member Regino Hermosisima, a retired Supreme Court associate justice, praised Sereno’s stance on making decisions even it contradicts her values.
Sereno said she only decides based on facts, noting that there is nothing in the Constitution that contradicts her values.
“I have no right to impose my preference, I must simply apply the law as it is,” she said.
Sereno cited her decision in the Hacienda Luisita land distribution case, saying she has to perform her role “in a more humble and limited way.”
“We are not in the position to correct a historic injustice, if indeed it took place, if the facts and evidence are not on record. Regardless of how I feel about Hacienda Luisita, I did not have the right to probe into something that the parties themselves have never litigated before us,” she said.
Hermosisima said from the nominees he has interviewed so far, he believes Sereno’s response was the “most adequate.”
Sereno also denied that she pushed for a higher compensation for the owners of Hacienda Luisita, saying she only presented the formula for just compensation.
“Not a single one put as an issue before the court the numbers that should be applied in Hacienda Luisita. Bigla nalang lumabas sa media ‘yung P10 billion, never namin napag-usapan ‘yung halaga. It is not on the record. I have never advocated anything higher than the uniformly-followed formula,” she said.
Sereno, along with 5 other justices, voted that the determination of valuation for just compensation be given to the Special Agrarian Court.
Youngest associate justice
The 52-year-old Sereno, the first appointee to the SC by President Aquino, is the youngest among the Chief Justice nominees from the high tribunal.
Sereno does not see this as a disadvantage, however, saying presiding over more senior justices is not something new to her.
“Noong 39 ako, ako lang ang babae na itinalaga sa 25-member Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform. The youngest and the only female. I was unanimously elected to be chairman of steering committee, not a single one of them hesitated to elect me,” she said.
“Wala pang nagsabi sa akin na hindi mo kaya ‘yan kasi bata ka. Ang na-experience ko ay paggalang,” she added.
Sereno also said she is not favorable to an outsider being appointed as Chief Justice.