Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and several members of her staff recently completed a five-day study tour of court processes in various courts of the United States, with emphasis on court automation and technology use, in Washington, D. C., from May 18 to 23.
Sereno’s entourage was composed of her chief of staff, Maria Lourdes Oliveros, and several members from the Office of the Chief Justice.
Joining them were lawyer Theodore Te, SC Public Information Office (PIO) chief, and lawyer Zaldy Trespeses, Sereno’s protocol officer.
A Supreme Court (SC) insider said this is one of the few occasions for a Chief Justice to bring so many staff in his or her travel.
“Halata namang junket yung grupo ni Sereno sa Amerika. Wala akong nakitang Chief Justice sa nakalipas na nagtatangay ng maraming staff sa biyahe abroad. Normally, asawa lang or isang staff [It’s obvious that the trip was a junket. I saw no Chief Justice in the past bringing with him or her so many staff overseas. Normally, it is just the husband or wife and one staff],” the SC source added.
Other justices who were invited to the trip were SC Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justices Fernanda Lampas-Peralta, Apolinario Bruselas and Filomena Singh.
The study tour was sponsored by the American Bar Association-Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI), one of the Philippine judiciary’s most committed development partners.
The five-day tour took the delegation to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Federal Judicial Center, the National Center for State Courts, the Center for Legal and Court Technology, the Administrative Office of the US Courts, the US Bankruptcy Court and the Maryland Electronic Courts Project.
Sereno’s group was also received at the Supreme Court of the United States by Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and at the State Department by a panel of senior officials.
The Chief Justice, SC associate justices and CA justices and the rest of the Philippine delegation, which included Te and senior lawyers from the Office of the Chief Justice, were also welcomed by Philippine consular officials, led by Charges d’Affaires Patrick Suasoto, at an informal dinner reception in Georgetown.
Sereno sad the study tour is “an affirmation that we are on the right track, there is still so much to do” in terms of automating Philippine court processes and using technology to speed up these processes.
At the reception hosted by the ABA-ROLI at the Library of Congress for the Philippine delegation on May 19, the Chief Justice gave a panorama of various development projects already in place and some others in the pipeline, citing concrete gains that the judiciary has made in a short period of time.
Calling these “success stories,” she thanked the ABA and its Rule of Law Initiative, other development partners and the international community for their continued commitment and support for the Philippine judiciary and extended an invitation to continue to take part in other success stories for the judiciary.