Sereno fans flame on flag ceremony brouhaha

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Sep 30 2012 02:09 PM | Updated as of Oct 01 2012 04:20 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- It seems the Supreme Court flag ceremony watching is far from over.

On Friday, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno ordered the issuance of a memo reminding each and every employee to attend the flag ceremonies, scheduled at 8:30 a.m. during Mondays, sources said.

This, amid Senior Justice Antonio Carpio’s gentle reminder that people should not look too much at the absence or presence of members of the high court during flag ceremonies.

“At the end of the day, you look at the decisions of the Supreme Court, how they vote, what decisions they took,” Carpio said.

The flag ceremony monitoring has become a pastime for some, especially as the third branch of government goes into full transition in leadership.

This is the first time that a junior justice leapfrogged the most senior members to become appointed as the high court’s chief. Sereno may also serve 18 years, the longest for any chief justice.

The Monday flag ceremonies, in fact, are as telling as when Sereno took her oath before President Benigno Aquino III.

Her first oath-taking as a new member of the high court was well attended. Then Chief Justice Renato Corona was also there.

When she was made Chief Justice, however, only the junior members were present including Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.

Some of the justices allegedly continued to snub her first flag ceremony as chief justice. On September 4, her first Monday as chief justice, seven of her colleagues were absent. There, she reminded employees not to listen to idle talk. She said her appointment was “neither the work of man nor of any political bloc. This is not a product of lobbying from business or economic interests but by God who knows all the plan of our nation…”

Carpio, who said the presence or absence “depends on the predisposition of the individual justices [but] it doesn’t mean anything,” was actually a no-show in the next flag ceremonies.

On September 24, her fourth Monday as chief magistrate, Sereno was pictured to be alone by herself -- not one of her colleagues were present.

But sources said this happened because of a mix-up in schedules. Thus, the Friday reminder was issued.

Flag ceremonies are mandated by law. Section 18 of the Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines provide that “all government offices and educational institutions shall observe the flag-raising ceremony every Monday morning.

Monday is also a tradition in the Supreme Court. All justices get a chance to hobnob with each other and then partake of a breakfast after the flag ceremony.