Sereno can change Philippine judiciary, US think-tank says

Posted at 09/04/12 9:43 PM

MANILA, Philippines - New Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno can change the Philippine judiciary, a US think-tank believes.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in its "Leaderboard" profile on Sereno, said the Philippines' top magistrate will be "a much-needed example for the judiciary" if she follows the 7-point guidelines she laid out when she took her oath of office last month.

"Sereno has said she will guard the independence and impartiality of the judiciary," the CSIS said.

"When she took the oath of office, she presented a seven-point guideline laying out the values she has followed as a judge. Those include building a reputation for telling the truth, avoiding conflicts of interest, and refraining from granting favors to family members," it added.

The 52-year-old Sereno will be chief justice until 2030, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

She will remain even after all current members of the Supreme Court would have retired.

Sereno, the country's first woman chief justice, will serve alongside at least 3 different presidents.

"Given Sereno’s potentially lengthy tenure, she could have ample time to institutionalize much-needed reforms in the Philippine judiciary, which is riddled with clogged court dockets and endemic corruption among judges and governmental officials," CSIS said.

"Sereno was appointed by President Aquino as an ally in his fight against corruption and as a means to restore confidence in the judicial branch, which was severely damaged by her predecessor's failure to declare $2.4 million in foreign currency deposits," it added, referring to the impeachment and ouster of former Chief Justice Renato Corona over undeclared assets.

In a speech before officials of law associations in Asia on August 29, Sereno urged the judiciary to redefine itself for it to become responsive.

"Give us room to undertake the process of reflection and to allow the Chief Justice to lead in that process," she said.

Sereno said the judiciary must watch the changes taking place in Philippine society and respond to them effectively.

One of her first official acts as chief justice was to disclose her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) to the public. 

On Tuesday, the high tribunal en banc also unanimously approved the Judicial Affidavit Rule to cut down trial time by half.

Malacañang said the public should give Sereno a chance to prove herself.