According to Sen. Loren Legarda, morale in the ranks of the Philippine judiciary has “plunged” since the start of President BS Aquino’s vendetta versus Corona late last year. Since then have staff have been feeling “like lost sheep”.]

MANILA, OCTOBER 29, 2012 (PHILSTAR) Taking the cue from her boss, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte yesterday said President Aquino’s prediction that former chief justice Renato Corona may be reunited with his patron, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in jail is very plausible.

Valte told state-run radio dzRB that such a scenario is legally possible under the current circumstances, particularly because Arroyo is now under hospital arrest on plunder charges – a non-bailable offense – while the ousted chief magistrate is facing charges of tax evasion.

Under Philippine laws, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, a power that has been vested in the judiciary – and not the executive department – and is guaranteed by the Constitution that Aquino himself had sworn to uphold.

The President had earlier declared that he thinks Commission on Elections commissioner Grace Padaca is “not guilty” of the graft charges she is facing.

The justice system provides that Padaca and Arroyo should be presumed innocent, both being an “accused” in a case.

Unlike Arroyo’s plunder and electoral sabotage cases, Padaca’s trial before the Sandiganbayan has not yet started. The warrant for her arrest was not served for four months and her P70,000 bail was shouldered by Aquino himself.

The mandate of finding an accused guilty rests on the judiciary.

Valte dismissed observations by Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua that Aquino seemed to be cruel to his political enemies and that his government was bent on pursuing vindictiveness, to the point of sacrificing the rule of law.

“There’s no cruelty there. Obviously, the rights of these people are being afforded to them. They are being made to answer the charges against them in the proper forum. So how can that be cruelty?” she asked.

“How can observing due process be tagged as cruelty? Obviously that’s an exaggeration,” Valte said, defending the prejudgment Aquino made on the cases against Arroyo even if all of these are still undergoing trial, and no final judgment has yet been made.

Carpio declines Sereno post offer By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) Updated October 28, 2012 12:00 AM

From left- Aquino, Sereno, Carpio

MANILA, Philippines - Is there still animosity between Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and her colleagues in the Supreme Court (SC)?

A highly placed source thinks so, citing as proof Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s turning down Sereno’s offer for him to head the high court’s computerization program.

And it was not just a simple rejection, the insider told The STAR.

Sereno, whose appointment meant a second and probably final bypass to Carpio’s bid to become SC chief, made the offer in a personal note thanking the latter for substituting for her in an event.

In his reply note, Carpio advised the Chief Justice to offer the post to “the junior justices so they can work their way up.”

“It’s not even a subtle attack. It was very obvious,” the source said.

Sereno is President Aquino’s first appointee to the high court. With her appointment to the highest SC post, she in effect bypassed Carpio and 10 other more senior magistrates.

The top SC post is traditionally reserved for senior justices.

Sereno’s predecessor Renato Corona was ousted by the Senate impeachment court for betrayal of public trust for failing to declare all his wealth in his statements of assets and liabilities and net worth.

Aquino had made no secret of his disdain for Corona, an appointee of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Sereno had testified against Corona in his impeachment trial.

Computerization is one of the priorities of the new Chief Justice. During her oral interview with the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), she proposed the creation of a body of experts or the adoption of a written manual or software, which would identify possible conflicts in decisions handed down by the court.

“So if you appoint someone to such a crucial post, that entails a lot of trust. But when the offer was rejected, what does that say?” the source said.

Some quarters believe the continued absence of senior justices in the weekly flag-raising ceremony at the SC – despite a reported internal memorandum from Sereno requiring their attendance – is a form of protest.

A member of the high court revealed to The STAR that they would always address Sereno as “madam” instead of “chief” during closed-door sessions.

Even members of her staff seemed unprepared for their sudden transfer to the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ).

In one instance, the source bared, a decision was returned to the OCJ because it was signed by the chief-of-staff of Sereno. They were told of court rules that a member of the staff is not allowed to sign decisions on behalf of the justices.

In her interview with the JBC, Sereno was asked about what she thought was her ascendancy over other members of the court, considering she was 12th in terms of seniority and had often dissented in big cases.

In her response, Sereno cited the case of the late chief justice Claudio Teehankee who had never lost the respect of other justices despite his dissenting opinions on many rulings favoring the Marcoses.

She said she had already proven her capability to work with senior colleagues during her leadership of the steering committee of the consultative council on constitutional amendments, where justices would “yell at one another during deliberations.”

She said there was nothing to heal in the SC in the first place because the ouster of Corona and her appointment had never caused a rift among the justices.

Upon her appointment, she adopted a “dignified silence” policy, which involved centralizing or restricting the release of information regarding the judiciary, thus making it harder for reporters to secure rulings.

Previous justices were reportedly more liberal in disseminating information.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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