Nine associate justices snubbed the oath-taking of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Seven were not around for her first flag ceremony. Presumably, those justices wanted to demonstrate their disappointment and disapproval over the president’s disregard for the principle of seniority and Sereno’s willingness to abide by it. But, as demonstrations go, it was childish and inutile.
Sereno will remain chief justice for the next 18 years unless she resigns or is impeached, becomes incapacitated or dies. So unless the protesting justices can force her to quit or convince Congress to impeach her, or if they can somehow incapacitate or kill her without getting caught, they will just have to live with the fact that she will remain their chief, and none of them will ever head the Court.
For those associate justices who can’t live with Sereno and the “trashing” of the principle of seniority, former senator Rene Saguisag offered a suggestion, “To dramatize a passion for the principle of seniority, resign! As was done by Supreme Court Justice Florentino Torres in 1920 and my Evidence teacher, Court of Appeals Justice Pompeyo Diaz in 1954.” That’s the way mature and principled people behave.
Justices claim they hold dearly the practice of appointing the most senior justice to succeed an outgoing chief but evidence proves that they do not hold it as dearly as Justices Torres and Diaz.
Justice Reynato Puno did not resign when Gloria Arroyo skipped him for Justice Artemio Panganiban. He thought about it, he said, but he didn’t do it. Maybe the promise that he would succeed Panganiban after a year’s wait was good enough for him. Justice Antonio Carpio did not resign when Gloria Arroyo appointed Justice Renato Corona, who was his junior. Now if Carpio could live with Corona then surely he can live with Sereno. Or is it a case of “Not once but twice!”
So what are these infantile associate justices going to do other than undermine their chief? Are they going to show their true colors and confirm once and for all the reason why out of all the thousands of lawyers qualified to serve as justices of the Supreme Court Gloria Arroyo handpicked them? Think about it. All things being equal, why were they chosen by Gloria? Read their decisions for the definitive answer.
Those justices should resign if only to demonstrate their respect for tradition. And the institution. They are not irreplacable. They are not the last bulwark against undemocratic tendencies if in fact there are any. They are not the finest examples of justice. In fact, as Arroyo appointees, they proved themselves champions of executive orders that not only gagged witnesses from testifying about anomalies, but also as facilitators of Gloria Arroyo’s attempt to escape justice.
If those brats in robes are unhappy and unwilling to work— then they should leave and make way for those who are willing to work their asses off to reform the judiciary and undo all the damage they have wrought. That’s the honorable thing to do, Your Honors. Rest assured none of you will be missed.
Goodbye and don’t let the door hit your asses on the way out.
Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).