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The Next Chief Justice

Sen. Joker Arroyo fears CJ Sereno may think she’s infallible

September 4, 2012 6:29pm

Senator Joker Arroyo on Tuesday warned that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s “God’s will” speech smacked of religious infallibility.
“She believes that she was anointed by the good Lord as the chief magistrate. I hope that in the next step she would not think that she has not infallibility in her judicial opinions,” Arroyo told reporters on Tuesday.
Talking to court employees on Monday, the recently installed chief justice said that her appointment was not a product of lobbying by politicians or businessmen, but of God’s will.  
“Ito pong mundo ay testigo na galing ho sa Panginoon lamang [ang aking pagkakatalaga bilang CJ]. Hindi ito gawa ng tao o hindi ito gawa ng sinong political [player],” Sereno said.
Arroyo added that Sereno’s message may be perceived to contain a “subliminal” message that “faith might be mistaken for infallibility.”
The senator was not the first to notice the subliminal message. Poliitical pundit and blogger Patricio Mangubat wrote that he found Sereno's latest pronouncement "disturbing.” 
Mangubat added that a belief in God does not jibe with the overwhelming presupposition of a neutral or religiously non-biased Court. “What the Court 'worships' is the Law," he concluded.
Also, Red Tani, a member of secularist activist group Filipino Freethinkers, rhetorically asked if Sereno’s “religious preoccupation” would take precedence over her duty to protect the constitutionally enshrined principle of secularism.
However, Senator Chiz Escudero is of a different mind. "Na may matinding pananampalataya at mabigat na pananampalataya ang sinumang opisyal ng gobyerno hindi naman dahilan yun para makaapekto sa kanyang trabaho," he said.
Respect from her fellow justices
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson in a separate interview noted that Sereno should not demand respect from her fellow justices. Rather, she should earn it.
Perceived as a rebuff from the other SC justices, seven of Sereno’s fellow magistrates did not attend the Chief Justice’s first flag-raising activity last Monday.
Those who attended the ceremony, including Sereno, were Associate Justices Roberto Abad, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Bienvenido Reyes, Jose Mendoza, Jose Perez and Mariano Del Castillo.
“Ang challenge kasi sa kanya, ang respect is something you earn. It is not something you can demand. Hindi nyo pwede i-demand irespeto ninyo ako dahil ako ang CJ,” Lacson said.
The senator explained that respect is earned by the way one carries him/herself. He likewise noted that various skill sets are required to be an effective chief justice.
“Hindi porke’t sinusuyo mo lahat na request nila pagbibigyan mo rerespetuhin ka, ‘di rin, eh. Double-bladed yan eh. Pwedeng mawala ang respeto kung obvious na obvious sinusuyo mo lang sila for the sake of making suyo,” he said.
“At saka maski CJ ka iisang boto ka rin. Ang mahirap sa CJ maraming functions, adjudicatory, may managerial and may administrative. So kailangan titimbangin mo lahat yan at kailangan may talent ka to delegate,” Lacson added. — DVM, GMA News
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