• Dealing with the tyranny of a majority



    WOMEN who have shown independence in performing their work are facing persecution and being threatened with removal from office for sticking to what they believe is the right thing to do.

    Sadly, the people behind the disturbing efforts to unseat these independent women are men who have managed to stay long in public office by sticking close to whoever is in power.

    It has been said that behind every successful man is a woman. Nowadays, it would seem that behind the downfall of a successful woman is a man with an insatiable greed for power and money.

    From news reports, it would seem that Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has lost her grip on the Supreme Court given the “consensus” among the 13 associate justices for her to go on indefinite leave while she defends herself in the ongoing impeachment proceedings.

    It also looks like the House of Representatives could easily get the required minimum of one-third of its 299 members to vote to impeach Sereno and send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for trial.

    While Sereno may not be the perfect person to be the top magistrate, the reasons cited for her removal from the post seem too petty, like the non-existence of her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for two years in the filing system of the University of the Philippines when she was teaching at the College of Law, and the non-declaration in her SALN of her legal fees before she became an impeachable officer with her appointment as chief justice.

    Former senator Rene Saguisag said the non-filing of SALN does not constitute an impeachable offense. Saguisag was the principal author of Republic Act 6713 that requires the filing of SALN by public officials and employees.

    This issue brings back to mind the multiple counts of perjury against former president Joseph Estrada for non-declaration of several companies, bank deposits, and other assets in his SALN when he was president. The Sandiganbayan dismissed the cases, in which Saguisag was among the battery of lawyers defending Estrada, and gave the former president the opportunity to correct his SALN declarations.

    How in the world can the non-filing of the SALN constitute betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, treason, or a high crime for it to fall among the grounds of impeachable offenses?

    Those after Sereno’s neck initially cited her purchase of a bullet-proof sport utility vehicle (SUV) for P5.1 million, using public funds, for her service car as a ground for her impeachment.

    Lawyer Larry Gadon accused Sereno of betrayal of public trust for prioritizing the purchase of the luxury vehicle for herself over payment of the benefits for surviving family members of deceased justices.

    The lawmakers, lawyers and administration officials ganging up on Sereno are mostly the same persons who succeeded in sending to jail Sen. Leila de Lima on what appears to be trumped-up charges implicating her in the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa.

    These are also the same people putting pressure on Ombudsman Conchita Morales to resign or face impeachment.

    While we see on one side of the political spectrum these powerful women who are asserting their independence in the performance of their sworn duty but facing humiliation and threats of losing their positions, on the other side are the likes of Mocha Uson, Sandra Cam, Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta, and Lorraine Badoy whose questionable qualifications are tolerated owing to their huge following in social media.

    Through the tyranny of the majority in both houses of Congress, and the robots in social media, Sereno is facing a fierce battle in the impeachment court. She has to face the reality of the times when disinformation and misinformation emanate even from the highest office in the land.

    She has to deal first with her enemies inside the Supreme Court. With her appointment as chief justice at 52, Sereno had frustrated the ambition of every Supreme Court member to retire as chief justice.

    Another issue thrown at Sereno was that she failed the psychological test for candidates for the high court and was assessed to have an average IQ. However, the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) immediately clarified that no one passes or fails psychological assessments.

    “The purpose of psychological assessment is to help understand a person’s functioning in various aspects of life for informed decision-making or for treatment planning,” the PAP said in a statement on March 2.

    PAP said that while psychological tests are developed and applied through scientific methods, “they are not perfectly accurate” and that “actual behaviors and performance are more valid than what psychological assessments may predict.”

    If Sereno’s critics would insist that she is not psychologically fit to be chief justice, then all government officials from the president down to barangay leaders should undergo psychological and psychiatric assessments, to be fair.

    Gadon, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali should be first in line to take the psychiatric test.


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