Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno attends the Supreme Court Christmas party. Edd Gumban
MANILA, Philippines — If Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s impeachment troubles are causing her stress, it didn’t show at yesterday’s Christmas party at the Supreme Court, where she gamely danced after speaking about the high tribunal’s achievements under her leadership.
One of her dance partners was Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, who is expected to testify in the impeachment proceedings against her in January.
Sereno and Del Castillo had a friendly embrace before dancing to “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” by the Carpenters.
The House justice committee is trying to establish probable cause to impeach Sereno, based on a complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
Committee chairman Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali had said Del Castillo might testify on the issue of corruption against the chief magistrate, including her acqusition of a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Aside from Del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe was the only other incumbent associate justice seen at yesterday morning’s Christmas party program at the SC quadrangle.
SC Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta was spotted watching from a distance at the back of the SC quadrangle. He briefly drew attention when his twin sons played the piano and clarinet on stage.
Also present was former Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna, currently the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) chancellor.
The four magistrates also danced with their respective partners. Sereno and Bernabe were later seen going to the middle of the crowd, encouraging them to join in the dancing.
Employees said Sereno would usually dance at special occasions at the SC. As in previous Christmas parties, not all justices were present.
In her 14-minute Christmas message, the Chief Justice encouraged employees to spread the good news on their accomplishments in the past five years or since her assumption to office as SC chief.
She admitted that significant positive changes in the judiciary under her leadership were rarely talked about.
“We have been working and working… but many people are not aware of the changes that we have been making” toward attaining their goal of “gold standard for public service,” she said.
She said that the SC employees should let the nation know that they have been working with pride, honor and dignity in recent years.
Some of the SC’s achievements, she said, were its wise spending program as shown by its not having been issued a notice of disallowance by the Commission on Audit (COA), decongesting of dockets by 50 percent and the operation of 294 electronic courts by the end of the year.
The SC has also made possible the resolution of small claim cases in 24 hours. Furthermore, trial time has been reduced from five or seven years to only six months to one year.
She also announced the SC would decentralize its maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) to allow local courts to directly purchase needed office supplies.
Sereno also praised the SC employees, saying they deserve to be rewarded.
“That is why it gives me great pleasure to announce that we will keep on creating incentives for the judiciary for this kind of performance. You deserve everything that you are going to get this month and for the months to come because so much output has been produced,” she stated.
Meanwhile, Gadon said his impeachment case against Sereno is likely to boost his chances in the next senatorial elections. With more justices set to testify against the SC chief, Gadon told reporters at a forum in Pampanga there is “zero chance she would not be impeached.” He also made it clear he would turn down any offer of position from the administration so he could focus on his advocacies.
“I cannot do all these things if I were in the government,” he said.
Gadon, who previously had an unsuccessful run for the Senate, is also associated with the Marcoses and former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. – Ding Cervantes