Palace won't put color to absence of SC justices at flag rites-A A +A
Monday, September 24, 2012
MALACANANG refused Monday to speculate on the absence of some justices in the flag raising ceremony at the Supreme Court (SC) now headed by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
"We don't wish to put color to their non-attendance," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
Sereno was only joined by few justices in the weekly flag raising rites at the SC since she took over the helm of the judiciary in late August.
On Monday, only Associate Justice Jose Perez, Philippine Judicial Academy Chancellor retired Justice Adolfo Azcuna, and Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) member retired Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr. were present aside from Sereno at the SC grounds in Manila.
A small group of students from St. Scholastica Manila also attended the flag rites on Monday to take the place of the absent magistrates.
It is already the fourth time that the majority of the 14 SC magistrates did not attend the ceremonies since Sereno was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III.
In a two-page statement, the St. Scholastica's Communication Society urged the country to rally behind the new Chief Justice and the entire High Court.
"Today, with a new leadership in the Supreme Court after democratic processes have been observed, our country is privileged to have its first female Chief Justice. Let us remember that the Supreme Court is the last bastion of justice and freedom," said the school's statement read by their representative after the ceremony.
Lacierda shrugged off the importance of attendance in flag-raising rites, saying the SC justices and employees would have to learn to deal with Sereno since she will be sitting for 18 years.
"Chief Justice Sereno will be there for 18 years. So there will be 52 times of flag-raising ceremonies in 18 years. So we don't wish to discuss that anymore," he said.
Sereno has the second longest term in the history of the High Court bypassing 13 senior sitting justices.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, meanwhile, said Monday that SC magistrates who intentionally skip the flag-raising rites can be ousted from office for violating the Philippine Flag Law.
In a statement, Macalintal said Section 18 of Republic Act 8491 requires all government offices and educational institutions to observe the flag raising ceremony every Monday morning.
"Their repeated and deliberate absences from the flag raising rites, which the law compels them to attend, may constitute betrayal of public trust, which is a ground for impeachment," he said.
SC justices can only be removed from office if convicted by the Senate impeachment just like in the case of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose misdeclared cash assets made him guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
Macalintal said there is no reason for the justices to skip the flag-raising since it even issued Circular 62-2001 on September 21, 2001, which directs the attendance of all lower court judges and court personnel in the rites.
"If the justices of the Supreme Court could compel lower courts and their personnel to comply with the Flag Law and be penalized for non-compliance therewith, there is no reason why the justices should be exempt from any punishment should they continue disregarding the law mandating them to attend the regular Monday flag ceremony," he said. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/HDT/Sunnex)