Youth calls on new CJ to reform judiciary, warns against ‘Aquino court’
With the appointment of Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Punzalan Aranal-Sereno as the 24th Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court (SC), youth group Kabataan Partylist challenged the new CJ to instigate “much-needed” reforms in the judiciary and lead the SC towards making “pro-people” decisions.
“The formidable task of reforming the judicial system tainted by political bickering and maneuvering now rests in her hands. It is a daunting task, especially as the high court has been dragged to the mire of political dramaturgy because of her predecessor’s impeachment,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino.
Sereno is the first female CJ of the Philippines. At 52, she is also the youngest to be appointed in the SC’s top post. Sans impeachment and other natural causes, she will be in the position for 18 years, until she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
“Given the expected long tenure she will have in the SC, Sereno will have ample time to enforce genuine reform in the country’s justice system,” Palatino said. “We need an SC that will be more transparent, pro-people, and free from political maneuverings,” he added.
The youth solon challenged Sereno to ensure that past rulings of the SC, especially on the distribution of Hacienda Luisita and the prosecution of human rights violators including Ret. Major Gen. Jovito Palparan, would be swiftly enacted.
Palatino raised fears, however, that Sereno’s appointment will pave the way towards the creation of an “Aquino court.” Sereno was President Benigno Aquino III’s first appointee to the SC in 2010, filling the lone vacancy in the high court due to the appointment of impeached CJ Renato Corona.
The youth legislator pointed out that in past SC decisions, Sereno has already shown her penchant for Aquino’s maternal family – the Cojuangcos. “Sereno wanted the Cojuangcos to be given higher compensation in the Hacienda Luisita ruling. This is disturbing, as early on in her career, it was already apparent whose side she is vouching for,” the youth solon explained.
In her dissenting opinion on the SC’s Hacienda Luisita ruling, Sereno said that the valuation of the 4,916 hectares up for distribution should be based on the 2006 fair market value. This, in effect, would mean that HLI would be paid around P10 billion as compensation for the land distribution.
“We have seen how former President Gloria Arroyo maneuvered the appointment of justices in the high court to serve her own interests. Now it is Aquino who’s playing the game. In appointing Justice Sereno, it is apparent that Aquino would like to maintain a considerable sway in the SC’s decision-making,” Palatino said.
“Even before Justice Sereno takes office, we post this challenge to her: bring back the people’s trust in the SC and make it an independent body that is not beholden to anyone except the Constitution and the Filipino people,” Palatino said. ###