Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte has effectively bypassed Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno when he did not follow the protocol in administering his oath of office of June 30.
According to unimpeachable sources of The Manila Times from the Duterte camp and the high court, a message is being sent by Duterte against Sereno when she was not chosen despite being the “primus inter pares” (first among equals) in the high court.
Two reasons were seen why Duterte did not chose Sereno and opted to chose his classmate from San Beda College of Law Class 1971 and Lex Talionis fraternity brother SC Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes.
First, the source said, that Duterte is a lawyer and he knows that seniority in the SC is very much respected as a tradition.
When President Benigno Aquino 3rd appointed Sereno who ranked no. 13 and was the second most junior justice at that time, the “sacred tradition of seniority” was violated by Aquino and Sereno.
“Remember that Duterte is a lawyer, time and again he knows that seniority is very much respected in the Supreme Court, until it was violated by Sereno and Aquino,” the source said.
As to the second reason, the source pointed out that Duterte disliked the decision of the SC when the court allowed Senator Grace Poe-Lllamanzares to run in the May 9, 2016 elections.
Duterte then has openly said that he intended to seek the presidency because the decision of the SC is wrong. He believes that foundlings like Poe cannot be considered as a “natural born citizen” because the Philippine Constitution is very clear that either of your parents should be Filipino.
Sereno spearheaded that campaign inside the SC in declaring Poe as a natural born Filipino citizen.
In fact, another source pointed out that Sereno even pressured Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, the original ponente of the Poe case, to rule in favor of Poe. However, Del Castillo did not yield to the pressure and lost in the voting.
Sereno was even accused of lawyering for Poe during the oral arguments and has even shown a Powerpoint presentation. With a vote of 9 against 6, Poe won her case to the SC and was allowed to run in the presidential polls by declaring her as natural born Filipino citizen.
“Kitang-kita naman na nag-aabugado si Sereno para kay Poe. (Sereno was obviously lawyering for Poe.) It is only under the presidency of Poe that she is safe and will not be kicked-out as chief justice,” it was argued.
It was President Benigno Aquino 3rd who started ignoring the chief justice protocol when she took his oath from then SC Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, then only the 3rd most senior justice in the high court at that time.
Aquino did such “ignoring” because he believed that then Chief Justice Renato Corona was a result of a “midnight appointment” of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The Times recently reported that SC sources said that Sereno was in fact having “palpitations” and usually absented herself from office to have medical check-ups.
Despite these issues, Sereno told the SC employees that she will finish her term even beyond the term of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte.
Sereno will mark her fourth year in office on August 24 and she will reach 70 years old, the age of retirement on July 2, 2030, unless she will be impeached or resign from office.
The Manila Times had earlier uncovered that Sereno flunked her psychiatric test, the non-declaration in her Statement of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN) of her attorney’s fees from the PIATCO NAIA terminal 3 case, and the manipulation and irregularities she made to stop the nomination for the SC of then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza.