Wanderer's Haven

These are unending stories of my one-sided affairs with love and life…

CJ Sereno’s Profile: Defying Gender Roles, Dissenting Opinions, Breaking New Grounds

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Defy + Dissent + Break = Recipe for a Modern Day Heroine

The Gods of Padre Faura (also known as the Arbiters of Right and Wrong) welcomed its 24th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court last August 24, 2012 when President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino made a historic appointment that changed the course of the Philippine judiciary. Defying traditions by going against judicial seniority, the infamous dissenter, Maria Lourdes Sereno, is the first woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the second youngest to be appointed at age 52. Only two years since her appointment in the SC, she bested seven other nominees recommended by the Judicial and Bar Council including then Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio who has been in office for nearly thirteen years. Talk about girl power!

Being the first appointee to the Supreme Court under President Aquino’s term, her appointment was met with questions and raised eyebrows. A minority in the judicial body of otherwise GMA-filled appointed magistrates, Sereno had been known for her dissenting opinions over controversial court cases particularly Arroyo’s travel ban and the compensation for the Cojuangcos over Hacienda Luisita, the former of which she filed a ruling against because Arroyo “allegedly made “inconsistent, and probably untruthful statements,” about her plans to go abroad for medical treatment.” (GMA News, 2011) The latter, on the other hand, accuses Sereno of “being partisan in favor of her appointer.” (Lauzon, 2012)

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Fig. 1. Table showing Arroyo’s and Aquino’s appointees in the SC

Minority block member Sereno is outnumbered by eleven justices appointed by Aquino’s predecessor GMA.

Her appointment has stirred a great division in the High Court. “Carlos Zarate, former president of IBP Davao-chapter said, “Her appointment had been controversial. We know for a fact that there’s still division in the high court. Probably not in the collegial cases, but there is. Of course those of us who are on the ground are also watching how that unfolds,” he said.” (Romero, 2013)

Sereno has been making headlines ever since she assumed her position as Chief Justice. Her “order about reopening a [failed] judicial office in Cebu without the en banc’s approval” (Muerenas, 2012) was an issue the media preyed on for days. De Castro had “formally called the attention of Sereno by writing a letter-memorandum raising the concern about Sereno’s order that has yet to get the approval of the court en banc.” (Muerenas, 2013)

”She should step down,” lawyer Troy Mendoza said. “[President Benigno Aquino III] should appoint a new chief justice.” Mendoza said this just a day after Sereno spoke before 3,000 lawyers at the 40th anniversary of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on January 16.” (Romero, 2013)

Now, hold your horses buddy. Rewind (and rethink) what you just said back there. Step down? Before we jump the gun here, let us give the lady the benefit of the doubt. She is only a year down in her term, give her some credit. (And 17 more years to prove it).

This ongoing opposition by some in her appointment has paved way to an underlying element of sexism. Why should she resign? Is she not fully qualified and equipped to preside over the highest court in the land? Why is her intellectual and leadership capacity questioned? (Ursua, 2013)

Before her, men have long graced the halls of the Supreme Court. Why haven’t we objected about past appointments as strongly as this one?

Would these have been brought up if she weren’t female? (Ursua, 2013)

I’d like to believe that we live in a new age of information and that the plight of women for equal footing in the society wasn’t for naught. It isn’t about succumbing to traditional gender stereotypes anymore. It’s the year 2014, where millenials treat social media like how I treat pizza (couldn’t live without it), learn about their daily news based on trending topics and express their fascination to live every single day like it’s their last with the hashtag #YOLO. Women are outside, making a difference, contributing to society. Modernization did us good.

My feminist instincts have been poked and I could go on and on about women’s rights but I’m not here to impose my views or share my love for pizza but I digress.

Before all else, she was a woman who also had a dream just like you and me.

Who is Maria Lourdes Sereno?

“Despite her family’s humble means, Chief Justice Sereno’s parents were able to nurture in her a passion for learning and personal excellence during her formative years. Her father, a native of Siasi, Sulu, and her mother, a public school teacher, saved what little money they had to buy second-hand books that she would eagerly read. Her appetite for literature and reflection served her well during her primary schooling and enabled her to graduate with honors at the Kamuning Elementary School and Quezon City High School. She was then awarded generous scholarships by the government and several private institutions that allowed her to earn an Economics degree at the Ateneo de Manila University, and a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of the Philippines.” (Judicial and Bar Council)

After graduating valedictorian at the UP College of Law in 1984, she joined the largest law firm in the country. Wanting to spend more time with her family, she left the firm in 1986 and became a professor at the UP College of Law, teaching Civil and Commercial Law for over 20 years. (Judicial and Bar Council)

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Fig. 2. Pie chart showing the schools all fifteen justices graduated from.

Justices Carpio, de Castro, Velasco, Perez, and Leonen also walked the corridors of Melchor Hall, the same way CJ Sereno did. It is a breeding ground for young hopefuls eager to enter the complex dynamics of interpreting the law and decision making.

“Lawyer-academician Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno was appointed on August 16, 2010 as the 169th Justice and on August 24, 2012 as the 24th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Born on July 2, 1960, she is the youngest to be so appointed to the SC in this century. She may also be one of the longest-serving ever, as she is to mandatorily retire in 2030 after serving a 20-year term.” (Judicial and Bar Council)

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Fig. 3. Bar graph ranking the justices from oldest to youngest.

Sereno breaks new grounds yet again.

On Judicial Transparency and Separation of Powers

“Sereno has been honest about the weaknesses of the institution she belongs with. In fact, she was the first to expose this and it made her into a head-on collision with then-Chief Justice Corona. [She] had been the first Chief Justice in more than two decades to voluntarily publish her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net-worth (SALN).” (Lauzon, 2012)

What we greatly look forward in the coming years is the full independence of the Judiciary from the influence of the other branches of the government. Sereno must learn to exercise judicial independence; her favor over her appointer, President Aquino, will be placed under the careful scrutiny of the public. Biased-judgment will not sit well with the rest of the magistrates and public trust may never be gained ever again.

CJ Sereno as modern day heroine

Women have come a long way. While slavery and oppression of women haven’t fully eradicated its poison out of society, today we achieve victory as women all over the world finally recognize the extent of their potential as leaders. Gaining seats of authority is not an easy feat and I applaud each one of you who have conquered.

Be a modern day heroine.

Continue to redefine society and break barriers.

Bibliography:

Cabacungan, Gil, “First woman Chief Justice,” Inquirer.net, last modified August 25, 2012, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/257098/first-woman-chief-justice-2.

“Profile,” Judicial and Bar Council, accessed March 14, 2014, http://jbc.judiciary.gov.ph/index.php/about-the-jbc/jbc-members/58.

Mangahas, Malou, “Will ‘Gods of Padre Faura’ bare SALNs at last?” Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, last modified August 26, 2012, http://pcij.org/stories/will-gods-of-padre-faura-bare-salns-at-last/.

Lauzon, Leo, “Philippine Chief Justice Sereno: Defying Gender Stereotypes and Tradition,” World Pulse, last modified September 11, 2012, http://worldpulse.com/node/57922.

“Justice Sereno’s dissenting opinion,” GMA News Online, last modified November 20, 2011, http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/239128/news/nation/justice-sereno-s-dissenting-opinion.

“Luisita farmers fear SC under Sereno will reverse distribution decision,” GMA News Online, last modified August 27, 2012, http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/271301/news/nation/luisita-farmers-fear-sc-under-sereno-will-reverse-distribution-decision.

Romero, Purple, “Sereno faces uphill battle in High Court,” Rappler, last modified January 17, 2013, http://www.rappler.com/nation/19950-sereno-faces-uphill-battle-in-high-court.

Ursua, Evalyn, “CJ Sereno resign? Smacks of sexism,” Rappler, last modified January 23, 2013, http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/20162-cj-sereno-resign-smacks-of-sexism.

Merenuas, Mark, “Chief Justice Sereno to face other justices in Tuesday’s en banc meet,” GMA News Online, last modified December 7, 2012, http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/285448/news/nation/chief-justice-sereno-to-face-other-justices-in-tuesday-s-en-banc-meet

Merenuas, Mark, “SC justice to Sereno: Why did you delete my recommendation in TRO vs party-list proclamation?” GMA News Online, last modified May 31, 2013, http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/310850/news/nation/sc-justice-to-sereno-why-did-you-delete-my-recommendation-in-tro-vs-party-list-proclamation.

Avendano, Christine, “Chief Justice Sereno releases her SALN: P18 million,” Inquirer.net, last modified August 31, 2012, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/261078/chief-justice-sereno-releases-her-saln-p18-million.

Ramos, Marlon, “Bare assets, justices told,” Inquirer.net, last modified May 31, 2012, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/203809/bare-assets-justices-told.

Requejo, Rey, “Yearender: SC embarks on House cleaning,” Manila Standard Today, last modified December 29, 2013, http://manilastandardtoday.com/mobile/2013/12/29/yearender-sc-embarks-on-house-cleaning/.

 

When Life Doesn’t Give You Lemons, Go and Get Them: A Unending Memoir of Contradictions

Where I came from, life didn’t tell me where I was going. And I am glad it didn’t  Because everyone around me was just bent on knowing. I tried so hard not to be one of them. I believe that knowing where you’re going takes out the mystery it promises to offer. But I won’t lie and say that I haven’t thought about it. Of course there are those moments, just right before I fall asleep and dream, that I wish I knew where I was going so I can find my way back. Life didn’t really hand me breadcrumbs. I have this need to place myself in a sea of busy people. I love standing idly while I watch them. And I love watching them watch me. I love the rush, the movement, and the sound. Maybe I can drown with them and never come back up. I have a feeling that when I am right there, in the middle of it all, I might be able to think better. Because finally, I am where it’s all real. I would like to try and eat in a restaurant by myself, where nobody judges me, where nobody knows anybody and everyone is just happy in their own little world. The way I would laugh at your jokes depends on how much I like you. If I like you too much, I’d laugh so hard I’d end up doing something clumsy. If I didn’t like you at all, I’ve already finished the drink in my hand even before you’re done talking. If you’re still awake at 4 am because you just finished reading a book, or watching a movie, or you just like sitting in the dark, I think that you’re brave. If you cry because of sunsets and babies, I think that you’re braver. If you like the smell of the rain and counted the stars at night and listened to Simon & Garfunkel, you are my soul mate  I want to be alone, but I also want someone to sleep beside me. My mattress is too big and I don’t like brushing my hands on an unruffled surface. There are things that I want to do but I am too afraid to do them. I constantly find myself dreaming that someday, I would have the courage to seize them. I don’t want to live with regrets, but I have a room full of boxes, labelled with every single thing that I wished I did differently. What if I looked back, would you have become a bigger part of my life? Or would you have stayed a memory? What if? These are words that will haunt me forever. I pretend that I don’t like pretending. And every day, I am as pretentious as everyone is around me. But I secretly love everything about it. I secretly love the pain of repression. I secretly love the pain of things. If I am being honest, the only time where I can’t pretend to be something I’m not is when I take off my shoes. Because when I do take them off, it means that I am done for the day. It means that I can sit on my bed and obsess about everything. I tell everyone that I hate liars and that I hate being lied to. But I just wish everyone who ever hurt me just lied to me. They say that the truth will set you free, but it screws you over like a goddamn bitch. Life didn’t really come with a lot of guidelines. Sometimes, I wish it did. I worry that I am too ordinary for anyone to notice. I wonder if the strangers that walked pass by me ever thought about me. If I die, I wonder how many people would attend my funeral. I wonder how many people will remember me. I’d like to think that out of everyone who knew me, someone was good enough to really know me. I am not sure if there ever was. I don’t really remember a lot, only faces and a string of blurry memories. I wonder, if I am seconds away from dying, will these strings of blurry memories become clear once again?

Poetry as Men in Movies

Poems are like motorcycle-loving, letterman jacket-wearing, nerd-bashing bad-ass leading men in movies. You can only discover real beauty by peeling off layer after layer of skin until you can open up the treasure that is their heart.

(Villamor, 2013)

Poetry on Commitments

Poems are very hard to trust. It’s like jumping to a commitment with a person you’ve only known for a week, only to be hurt a week later because they didn’t turn out the way you expected them to be.

(Villamor, 2013)

Dear WordPress #2

It’s been more than two weeks since I got to meet my new roommates and so far, our topic of conversation has only been about our classes or the weather. Maybe it’s because we’re still trying to adjust to the idea of living together and cleaning up after each other’s mess. Our relationship would get better in time. I hope…

I had half a mind to skip my morning class today. It wasn’t because it was early. I’ve already adapted to my new sleeping schedule and that is to sleep before 1 am. No. It was because of the rain. The umbrella didn’t make any difference. My favourite shoes are still untidy. Rain, stop scheming against me. I don’t want to be any part of it.

It’s a good thing that I got back to the dorm before Game 6 ended. Somehow, that made it all better. I followed a live feed on twitter and even when I’m virtually away from experiencing it, I felt like Miami’s victory was my victory as well.

But as it turns out, Ray Allen’s three-pointer wasn’t the only highlight of my day. By some chance, I finally got to sit next to you. I’ve been meaning to talk to you ever since the first day of class. But you were just so out of my reach that I was compelled not to. I will forever cherish the one hour and 30 minutes we spent breathing in each other’s carbon dioxide. Sit next to me again… On Friday, perhaps?

Dear WordPress #1

I have been exposed to the rain all afternoon and now my head is aching and my back is sore. I am in my dorm room, contemplating about the two chapters of A. Heywood’s Politics that I have just read and I think nothing is sinking in. Maybe if I sleep it off for a little while… And when I start dreaming about Plato or Machiavelli, then that would mean that I actually learned something. Now, I feel like a cold is coming up. Brain, remember when you used to love the rain so much that you can’t hardly wait for it to come again? Now, you just feel icky and unsettled and you hate it with a passion. I don’t want to be absent. Ever. I am trying this new thing called diligence… Are you familiar?

Happy Father’s Day!

To the wisest, hippest and second most awesome man (me, being the first, not Maegan, me, Maegan’s so lame) that has ever lived, Happy Father’s Day!  

There’s really no other clichéd way to express this but through a media outlet where your colleagues and everyone we know and don’t know witness your 5-minute social network fame because I have somehow flattered your already very inflated ego by dedicating an entire post to you.

I could be saying thank you over and over again and it still wouldn’t be a fraction of how much I am so grateful and blessed for the love, encouragement and trust that you have given me over the years. You have been my first teacher, my first adviser, my first friend, my first date, my first kiss, my first love and no one, not even my super sexy air-bender, wizard, demigod, and secret ninja future husband can take that away. You, and everyone back at home, are the reason why I still get up in the morning, why I still have so many hopes and dreams even when the world continuously punches me in the face, why I don’t let terror professors intimidate me even when all I really want to do is pee on my pants, why I stay at the dorm on Friday nights instead of partying just to finish my homework but I end up lying on my bed until Sunday morning anyway and actually get some of it done…

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Daddy, for all the sacrifices, the sleepless nights, the eye-bags, the health problems and the countless of artwork projects, you are and will always be my inspiration and I wouldn’t have it any other. Thank you for offering me the world and always putting my needs above yours. You can never disappoint even when you want to. 

I am the most self-absorbed and most flawed daughter any parent could ever have, but you still love me even in my worst of hair days. And I want you to know that I love you too, from the deepest, innermost cores of this blood-pumping organ that only beats for you and for the family. (And for Ryan Gosling, of course) 

Daddy gwapo, happy father’s day! Try to keep it tight even when you’re on your mid-40s, yeah? Whoop! I should’ve withheld that piece of information. Sorry.

Faint Memory

After an eventful PolSci 11 class, I decided to reward myself with something refreshing before I end the day and go back to the dorm.

Nearing SC, it suddenly started raining… Hard. And I have to stop short on my trek to happiness because I forgot to bring my umbrella. Again. That’s two days in a row now.

Eventually finding a roof to protect my now drenched clothes from becoming next week’s laundry, I saw someone very familiar rushing to the waiting shed. It was my Math 2 professor! Dressed in khaki shorts and a modest collared shirt, he looked even younger than the last time I saw him… And that was what? A year ago?

I wanted so much to talk to him and know how he’s been. Just for old time’s sake. And you know, thank him for giving me a grade I can still never deem to deserve. But this was a professor, with a college degree and authority and probably a masters in teaching, I couldn’t just go up to him and say hi like we’re close friends or something. So I tried smiling at him just to get a reaction but it proved very futile. The look he gave me was enough for me to assert that he didn’t recognize me. At all.

Even after his jeep arrived, leaving me embarrassed and dazed by myself, I couldn’t get over the fact that sitting on the front row of his class (and I rarely sit on front rows) wasn’t enough for him to remember me.

But then a faint memory from long ago, one that he told us to never forget, and one that I seem to have, suddenly popped up in my mind.

This is very much non-verbatim. Probably even tweaked a little (a lot) for the sake of this post. But the idea remains the same:

(Last meeting for the first semester)

Math 2 Prof: Once you leave this classroom, know that I might never and will never see nor speak to you again… It is not because I am a snob. I am just not good with faces. So don’t expect me to return any kind of greeting from you. I don’t like any form of outburst from someone I don’t know.

That calmed me down a little bit. I am finally not on the receiving end of a bad memory.

Sir, thank you for the grade. I learned so much from you… And your endless love for stocks and insurance.

Have a happy life.

I Bleed Unrequited Love

Everything reminds me of you.

And I hate it.

The library, the color green, the Ikot Jeep, Kalay… 

If he’s using the same hair gel…

If she’s ever been in your class…

Everything…

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You must understand how hard it is for me, right?

Of course you don’t.

You don’t even know I feel this way.

Stop Kidding Yourself

You have once again failed me.

I shouldn’t even be so surprised anymore…

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Because that’s just how it is. And that’s how it will always be. People, in general, would never commit to anything. If they tell you they do, that is just because they want to get into your pants.

Don’t kid yourself, bitch.

They would promise you the world. But in the end, nobody stays with someone long enough. And when you least expect it, they will pull that rug from under your feet, and you’re just left with your sorry ass on the floor, wondering about how miserable you are and why you even bothered to share a piece of your soul to someone else in the first place.

Because the truth is, people suck. And they leave you. And they would never look back when they do.

They could pretend to care, but all they really care about is themselves… And if they’re using enough hair gel.

That’s just how it is. And that’s how it will always be.