Monday, December 21, 2015

94. #1 Defining Moment of the PNoy Administration: PNoy appoints J.Sereno as Chief Justice

I don't remember the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court being ever immune from politics. Teehankee wouldn't get appointed by Marcos despite his seniority. Cory Aquino would appoint him eventually after he administered her oath in one of the rare occasions that the republic had two presidents. Marcelo Fernan got appointed in exchange for his political work for Cory in Cebu. Narvasa got appointed for his work in the Agrava Commission. Erap appointed Davide as a favor to Lucio Tan. Panganiban was appointed by Gloria Arroyo for his active role in EDSA Dos and installing the acting President GMA. I'm still figuring out the story about CJ Reynato Puno, and I'm betting it's through his freemason connection as the freemasons led by then DPWH Sec. and former General Hermogenes Ebdane wielded considerable power and influence during the GMA years. When Puno retired, the post of chief justice was contested between J. Carpio and J. Corona, and GMA appointed J. Corona during the period in which midnight appointments were banned. The story is Carpio was punished, as it were, for that stinging ponencia in that PIRMA decision, which permanently shut down GMA's hopes of perpetuating herself to power. So, when Corona was impeached the big question was would the President appoint Carpio? There is no question Carpio had more gravitas. Carpio was in the mainstream pack of the legal profession. He was the founder of Carpio Villaraza and Cruz, which I would liken to the Bulls and Lakers dynasties combined in the NBA, having been plucked from obscurity by Fidel V. Ramos, leading the Estrada impeachment as well as prosecution, and having powerful government posts in the GMA era like the Department  of National Defense, Ombudsman and justice of the Supreme Court. Justice Sereno had a stellar career as well, albeit none in the judiciary. Unlike J. Carpio, she had no powerful organization backing her up like masons or a latin sounding fraternity or a law firm. All she had was a small religious organization. But Aquino appointed J. Sereno, a young jurist with no political or commercial backers. It's like one of those classic chess games in which Kasparov would offer a rook in exchange for apparently nothing and Topalov's jaw would drop. I'm still making sense of it, but one thing is sure, the appointment insulated the Supreme Court from the power brokers that dominated the judiciary for the last forty years. It's a shot to the future. Finally, no single law firm, lawyer, or litigant, can command an en banc review of settled cases at the whim of a single handwritten note, as Estelito Mendoza used to do. This is the single long lasting legacy of the PNoy Administration, a Supreme Court that would not be a rubber stamp for powerful competing interests in the republic. And Aquino would get what he wish for when the Sereno-led Supreme Court would overrule his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional. So stung was Aquino with the defeat that he went on a media rampage assailing the Supreme Court, but the deed is done. As CJ Sereno once said, "Excuse me, I don't serve Presidents."

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