HIDDEN under all the talk of the Quo Warranto petition and its unprecedented granting by the court of last resort against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is the reality that the Supreme Court, as an institution, had been suffering from perception issues.
Many people have long opined, perhaps inappropriately, that getting a Supreme Court appointment requires a lot of talent and knowing the right people.
They also opined that Maria Lourdes Sereno got to the Supreme Court on this basis in 2012.
Worse, they believe she was handpicked to serve as insurance against the many cases her appointee, her own classmate Benigno Aquino iii, would face.
Thus we recall the controversy that erupted over this appointment, and how people would question her decisions and accuse her of bias due to her religion, family connections (remember DMCI and Torre de Manila), and other issues that they claim taint her decisions.
Unfortunately, therefore, much of the negative perception emerged out of the belief of a good number that her all too politicized appointment is to blame.
This was not helped by the perception that when compared to her more senior colleagues, she was a junior justice with less experience than most on the bench, a perception she may have never surmounted.
Insiders claim that as she led the Court, many decisions she opted to take to administer the body were challenged by colleagues and court employees who made their stands against her continued stay known.
As she faced the heat and pressures against her from within and outside the court, she went on speaking engagements, many in front of opposition groups where she fanned the controversies, even more, focusing attention on the details against her which she didn’t really answer, allowing opposition groups to muddle the issues conflating her situation with abstract accusations of politics “killing” judicial independence.
Seeing all of these were are not surprised that the general public has judged her harshly.
The Social Weather Stations in its latest survey reports in its March 23-27 survey a hard 13-point decline in her overall net satisfaction rating due to decreases of 27 points in Mindanao, 13 points in the Visayas, 11 points in Balance Luzon, and 3 points in Metro Manila, bringing her to -7, her lowest ever. (https://www.sws.org.ph/swsmain/artcldisppage/?artcsyscode=ART-20180417152133)
The surveys show the decline from December 2017. It seems that as her public appearances and statements increased in the last few months, public distrust also went up.
With the memory of the political back-story about her appointment heavy on the heads of many Filipinos, the perception that she played politics to keep her position, something unbecoming of a chief justice, may have damaged her credibility, hence the results.
We hope that for the sake of the institution, the next Chief justice will emerge with a clear reputation for skill and independence and an impeccable reputation, and a complete record of properly filed and truthful SALNs.
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