By Getsy Tiglao
The people have spoken: they want Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Aranal Sereno to resign. The people in this case being the employees, judges, lawyers, and staff in the SC and other branches of the Philippine judiciary who have expressed in bright red colors their ardent wish for Sereno to leave her post.
It was unprecedented what happened last Monday as the employees of the High Court gathered for their early morning flag ceremony. Amid a sea of red shirts, the members of the Supreme Court Employees Association and the Philippine Judges Association read a strongly-worded statement calling for Sereno to resign.
Also present at the Padre Faura gathering were the Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees, the Philippine Association of Court Employees, and the Sandiganbayan Employees Association, who represent thousands of employees. All were one in saying they have withdrawn support for Sereno who they said had embarrassed the SC and placed the entire judiciary in disrepute.
Even employees in the provincial branches of the judiciary were reported to have worn red shirts or ties on that day as a sign of solidarity with this stand against Sereno, who will go down in history as the most unqualified, most divisive CJ ever appointed to the Supreme Court.
How can Sereno, who professes to be devout Christian, ignore this strong clamor from the people for her to resign? Is her ego too big that she cannot let go of her position? If she is a real Christian she would make the big sacrifice for the good of the judiciary and stop with the charade that she still has supporters around.
If Sereno has any conscience left she must know that she is not fit for the position, that she doesn’t have the high mental capacity or stable emotional state to be the leader of a group of highly intelligent justices.
Because of her sly maneuverings and repeated disregard for the en banc court the other justices do not respect her. They know, too, that the rules were bent for her in the Judicial Bar Council because she did not submit all of her Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), a legal requirement to be chief justice.
We heard the testimony of her fellow justices in the impeachment hearing in Congress. A historic 8 justices testified against her, plus one recently retired one. The House justice committee, in an overwhelming vote (38-2), found probable cause in the impeachment charges against Sereno.
How humiliating for Sereno. A normal person would be embarrassed enough with all these to resign and leave, especially if one wants to protect the integrity of the institution that she worked in, despite her lack of qualifications.
But not Sereno, who it seems really suffers from delusions of grandeur, as her leaked psychological assessment has revealed. Thus she has stuck her claws in, yelping about judicial independence when she is the very reason the judiciary is in such a sorry state.
Earlier, another unprecedented historic event was witnessed at the SC. All the 13 justices that were present in the en banc forced Sereno to take an indefinite leave. Wow. Sereno, not the brightest bulb in the judiciary, then tried to spin the leave as a “wellness” thing.
But the magistrates she disrespected and annoyed repeatedly during her term didn’t take this sitting down. They quickly issued a rebuttal of Sereno’s “wellness” excuse and said clearly that she had been forced into leaving. How I wish they just asked Sereno to resign right there and then! Then we wouldn’t have to face the spectacle of senator-judges pretending to be erudite and fair when we all know they are masters in political accommodation especially when bribed with pork barrel.
To Filipino-Americans who might not be familiar with the case, think of it this way. Imagine that US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was forced to take a leave by his fellow justices in the American SC, including such venerable legal figures as Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, and Stephen Breyer.
Or imagine CJ Roberts being impeached by the U.S. Congress on charges of violations of the constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes – and yet he refuses to leave his post. This is too shocking even to contemplate.
In the Philippines, not even the terrible stench of a scandal can make public officials resign their office. Here “kapit tuko” has become a fine art, not only among politicians, but also among officials who are hiding behind their “impeachable” mantle. They don’t care that they are destroying the very institution they swore to serve by remaining in it despite their obvious blunders and unlawful actions.
It’s a good thing that the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice had the brilliant idea to slap Sereno with a quo warranto case. This is a legal option to show that a government official’s appointment was void to begin with. In Sereno’s case, this will start with her failure to submit all of her SALNs, her flunking of her psychological and psychiatric examinations, and her low IQ level.
The few supporters of Sereno have been whimpering that she must be allowed her day in court. Nope. Senators are notorious for being unreliable and opportunistic. Plus the current administration, unlike the previous one, is not the type to dangle pork barrel as bribes. You can’t expect these highly partisan senators to vote on an impeachment case solely on its legal merits no matter what they say before media.
The quo warranto case is the best option for the country, an expeditious way to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court and restore its former dignity. Or Sereno can do us all a favor by resigning right now.