By - And then there was one.

Only Associate Justice Jose Perez (photo) joined Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday at the weekly flag-raising ceremony at the Supreme Court, albeit a few minutes late.

The absence of the 12 other justices was noticeable during the event that for reporters covering the beat had become a sort of Kremlin-watching spectacle before the fall of the Soviet Union on who’s in or out of the leadership totem pole.

Participants at the Monday morning event on Padre Faura usually line up on the steps of the court’s main building in front of the flag pole. No-shows could easily be spotted.

During the past three Mondays following the Aug. 25 appointment by President Benigno Aquino of the junior justice, bypassing five senior magistrates, to replace the ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona following an emotional impeachment trial, at least seven members of the high court had shown up for the raising of the colors.

Flag and heraldic code


Leading the absentees was Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who had been bypassed twice for top honcho of the high tribunal—first by Corona in 2010 and this time by Sereno, at 52 the youngest among the magistrates to occupy the post until the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Carpio was a member of the court’s first division that ruled on March 25, 2009, in Martinez et al. v Lim that flag ceremonies inspire patriotism and evoke the finest sentiments of love of country and people and pointed out that Republic Act No. 8941, or the 1998 Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, penalized those ignoring the weekly ritual.

The administrative case concerned a sheriff who berated several employees of the Romblon prosecutors’ office for skipping the ceremonies. He was charged with grave misconduct and sacked. The court acquitted the sheriff.

Citing the case, lawyer Romulo Macalintal said absent magistrates could be held liable under RA 8941 for betrayal of public trust.

“The law clearly mandates the holding of flag ceremonies every Monday in all government offices. The justices are not exempted from this. In fact they ordered the holding of flag ceremonies in halls of justice and courthouses,” Macalintal told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview, referring to a Sept. 21, 2001, court circular.

“The justices should not place themselves above the law. They should be models and examples of law-abiding citizens,” he said.

“You may not like the Chief Justice but what we’re talking about here is love of our country, our flag and national anthem. If they are displeased with her, they should not show their displeasure to our flag and anthem.”

Privileged to have Sereno

On Monday, a group of students from the Communication Society of St. Scholastica’s College in Manila attended the event and distributed copies of a two-page statement expressing support for Sereno, who later greeted them.

“Today, with a new leadership in the Supreme Court after democratic processes have been observed, our country is privileged to have its first female Chief Justice … Let us remember that the Supreme Court is the last bastion of justice and freedom,” the statement read.

At the sidelights of the Judicial Excellence Awards ceremony at the Manila Hotel Monday, Carpio downplayed the issue.

“I’ve attended more flag ceremonies than anyone. Don’t look at that too much. At the end of the day, you look at the decisions of the [justices]. I think those are the things that are more important,” he told reporters. “We support Chief Justice Sereno because she is the Chief Justice.”

“I do not wish to put color to their non-attendance,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. “Suffice it to say that Chief Justice Sereno will be there for a good 18 years. There will be 52 weeks (in one year) and 18 years of flag-raising ceremonies. So, we don’t wish to discuss that anymore.” With a report from Michael Lim Ubac


SC justices continue Sereno boycott

[PHOTO -Support for Sereno. Students from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila trooped to the Supreme Court to give their statement of support to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno]

THEN there was one.

For the fourth straight week, justices boycotted flag-raising ceremonies at the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

And it was worse yesterday when only Associate Justice Jose Perez showed up, aside from Sereno.

The flag ceremony started late, and Perez arrived later.

Traditionally, magistrates show their support to a newly appointed chief justice by appearing at his or her side during the first flag-raising ceremony to send the message to court employees that the judiciary is united under one leader.

Sereno was named top magistrate last August 24.

During Sereno’s first flag-raising ceremony as chief justice last September 4, she was joined only by five of the 13 other magistrates. They were Associate Justices Perez, Roberto Abad, Jose Catral-Mendoza, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Bienvenido Reyes.

Absent were Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin Mariano del Castillo and Martin Villarama Jr.

Last September 10, with Sereno during the flag raising were Abad, Del Castillo, Villarama Jr., Catral-Mendoza and Reyes attended the ceremony.

Last week, only Velasco Jr., Leonardo-de Castro, Brion, Peralta, and Bersamin showed up.

A small group of students from St. Scholastica’s Manila attended the ceremonies as an expression of support for Sereno.

“Today, with a new leadership in the Supreme Court after democratic processes have been observed, our country is privileged to have its first female Chief Justice, Hon. Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno...Let us remember that the Supreme Court is the last bastion of justice and freedom,” a representative of the school said, reading from a two-page statement from the school’s Communications Society.


Supreme Court justice: Attending flag-raising ceremony not a requirement Tuesday, September 25, 2012

MANILA -- Senior Associate Justice Carpio (photo) broke his silence over reports that he and other magistrates have been skipping the weekly flag-raising ceremonies in protest to the appointment of Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice.

Carpio, along with other senior members of the Supreme Court, were noticeably absent from the activity since Sereno took over the judiciary in late August. Her appointment defied the seniority tradition in the Court, dashing hopes of other justices to make it on top someday.

"It's up to you if want to attend (the flag-raising) or not," Carpio told reporters late Monday.

Carpio said the justices will rally behind Sereno "because she is the Chief Justice" but sources related the chief magistrate failed to earn the trust and confidence of her senior colleagues.

The non-attendance of some justices should not be seen as lack of support for Sereno, added Carpio, who led the High Court for two months after the ouster of then Chief Justice Renato Corona on May 29.

"Don't look at that too much. You look at the decisions at the end of the day. You look at the decisions of the Supreme Court, how they vote and what decisions they took. I think those are the things that are more important," he said.

Earlier, noted election lawyer Romulo Macalintal warned of possible impeachment case against the justices for violating the Philippine Flag law, which requires all government offices and educational institutions to observe the flag-raising ceremony every Monday morning.

Macalintal said failing to follow the law would make the justices accountable for betrayal of public trust, one of the grounds for the removal of constitutional officers like the members of the High Court. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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