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Filipinos should exercise vigilance as Aquino appoints new Supreme Court chief justice.

Manila: A group identified with the political left has called on Filipinos to exercise vigilance as President Benigno Aquino appoints a known ally to the post of top magistrate.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Nationalist Alliance) or Bayan, said that with the appointment by Aquino of erstwhile Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as the new Supreme Court Chief Justice, Filipinos should not let their guard down against the emergence of a judicial branch of government that is open to the dictates of the Chief Executive (Aquino).

"It remains to be seen if the new Chief Justice will exercise real independence from President Benigno Aquino," Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general said in a statement.

Last Friday's appointment by Aquino of Sereno to the Chief Magistrate's post ended months of debate concerning the highest appointed post in the country. All other posts of similar statute, such as the presidency, senate and members of the congress, are elective positions.

In 2011, the post of Chief Justice was cast in the limelight after members of the House of Representatives voted to subject Chief Justice Renato Corona to an impeachment trial on charges of abuse of authority and favouring former president and now House member Gloria Arroyo and refusing to disclose his assets as stated in the law.

Corona was found guilty on failing to disclose his assets and was stripped of his post in May 2012. Associate Justice Antonio Carpio served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in an acting capacity until last Friday's appointment of Sereno.

Bayan said public vigilance is also needed to thwart any effort by the Executive to control the Judiciary. Like ousted Corona, Sereno's actions will be closely monitored as an indicator of independence from the Palace.

Female top magistrate

Aquino's appointment of Sereno as the country's 24th Chief Justice has been accorded special significance by the presidential palace She is the country's first female Supreme Court Chief Justice.

"We believe the judicial branch of government has a historic opportunity to

restore our people's confidence in the judicial system," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement issued on Friday.

Sereno was appointed as member of the Supreme Court by President Aquino on August 16, 2010.

According to Lacierda, Aquino is confident that Sereno will lead the judiciary in undertaking much-needed reforms. The Philippine justice system had been suffering from serious image problems as a result of questionable controversial rulings and issues concerning the overall system of delivering justice.

Born on July 2, 1960, the then 50-year old Sereno is among the youngest to be appointed to the Supreme Court Chief Justice in this century.

Aside from this, she may also be one of the longest-serving justices ever, as she is to mandatorily retire in 2030 after serving a 20-year term.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 25, 2012
Words:478
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