Palace to Supreme Court justices: Be professional-A A +A
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
MANILA -- Malacañang asked the associate justices of the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday to “be professional” and accept the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang said while some members of the SC are against Sereno’s appointment, they could not do anything but move on and start working with one of the youngest and first-ever lady Chief Justice.
“The appointment of Justice Sereno was widely perceived to be a positive thing that caps the drama over the impeachment trial of former CJ Renato Corona. So it’s a new slate and we hope that everybody will give Justice Sereno a chance to prove herself,” Carandang said.
He declined to speculate on the reason why several associate justices were not present during Sereno’s oath-taking and her first flag-raising ceremony at the Supreme Court, which some quarters considered as a move to snub her.
“I will not call it a snub. I don’t know why they weren’t there. I haven’t spoken to the justices so I will not speculate as to why they were not there. I would not try to read anything into it at this point in time,” the Palace official said, adding that such speculations are unfair to Sereno.
Carandang added that what is important now is for Sereno to carry out the reforms needed in the judiciary and other Supreme Court magistrates to support and start working with their new head.
“What’s important is that the work gets done,” he said, adding that Malacanang is expecting the justices to be professional enough in working with Sereno.
The appointment of Sereno has raised eyebrows among several justices in the SC especially the senior ones.
During the first flag-raising ceremony of Sereno at the SC, only six associate justices showed up, namely: Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo, Roberto Abad, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Bienvenido Reyes, Jose Mendoza and Jose Perez. Bernabe and Reyes were other two appointees of President Benigno Aquino III.
Seven other associate justices were absent, led by Antonio Carpio, one of the most senior justices of the SC; Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Arturo Brion, Presbitero Velasco and Martin Villarama Jr.
During Sereno’s oath-taking only four attended, namely: Villarama, Bernabe, Castillo and Reyes.
Malacanang maintained that a lot of reforms will be implemented through the long reign of Sereno in the judiciary.
“You know, some of the things that need to be done to make the judiciary more responsive to the public are going to be things that are going to need a lot of time to fulfill. And if you have someone who will be there for a long time, that assures continuity rather than if you had someone who will stay there for one or two or three years. It doesn’t assure the kind of continuity in reform that you are looking for in the judiciary,” said Carandang.
Meanwhile, after several run-ins with a former SC spokesperson, Sereno on Tuesday designated for the court a “communicator” for judicial reforms.
Deputy court administrator Raul Villanueva, a former Las Pinas Regional Trial Court (RTC) executive judge, was tapped by Sereno to inform the media about the en banc’s unanimous approval of the revision of the rules on the submission of judicial affidavits before the courts, as contained in Administrative Matter 12-8-8-SC.
Court sources who requested anonymity said that Sereno first approached court administrator Jose Midas Marquez to speak on judicial reforms. But Marquez, who had been the spokesperson for the court since the time of former Chief Justices Reynato Puno and the impeached Renato Corona, declined Sereno’s offer.
Marquez and Sereno last year locked horns when the latter accused the court spokesman of not telling the truth about the voting of justices in the government’s motion for reconsideration on the SC’s ruling to declare unconstitutional the watch-list order issued by the Department of Justice against former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Acting court spokesperson Gleo Guerra said that several spokespersons will be appointed in various capacities to answer media queries.
As deputy court administrator, Villanueva has supervision and administration over lower courts in Judicial Regions 1, 2, 6, 9, and 10.
A graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law, he was appointed to the judiciary as Las Pinas RTC judge at the age of 39, one of the youngest to hold the post.
During his briefing with the media, Villanueva, however, declined to answer questions from the press. When he allowed reporters to ask clarificatory questions, he requested cameramen from television news teams not to record the question-and-answer portion of his briefing.
“I will just announce (the judicial reforms), but I will not entertain questions,” he said.
Under the revised rules on judicial affidavit, the witnesses in all cases whose penalty is not exceeding six years will no longer be subjected to give an oral direct testimony, and instead, trial will proceed directly to cross examination by the opposing lawyer.
Judicial affidavits are sworn statements or deposition containing the witness’ testimony in question-and-answer form. They are usually used in place of the traditional direct testimony to expedite the presentation of evidence.
Villanueva said the revision of the rules was upon the recommendation of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who chairs the SC’s committee on the revision of the rules of court, and Associate Justice Roberto Abad, head of the subcommittee on revision on rules of procedure.
He said the revised rules had already been piloted in the Quezon City RTC since April this year, but will be implemented nationwide starting January 2013 in all first- and second-level courts, including appellate courts and quasi-judicial bodies.
“This will cut down by 50-percent the (time used by the court in the) presentation of witnesses,” he told reporters.
A copy of the Court resolution was not immediately made available because it was still being circulated among the justices as of this posting Tuesday.
The revised rules further mandate that the submission of affidavits and exhibits in lieu of direct testimony should be not later than five days before pre-trial or preliminary conference, or before a scheduled hearing of motions and incidents.
If a party fails to submit, there will be a fine of P1,000 to P5,000, unless the delay is justifiable subject to the court’s discretion. (Jill Beltran/ECV/Sunnex)