Profile: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2012 04:54 PM | Updated as of Aug 25 2012 02:01 AM

(UPDATED) Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal Sereno, the 169th Justice of the high court, is the 24th Chief Justice.

In a transmittal letter addressed to Senior Associate Antonio Carpio and Sereno, Exec. Sec. Paquito Ochoa formally informed the high court about the appointment.

On page one of the letter addressed to Carpio, Ochoa said: "I am pleased to transmit herewith the appointment of Hon. Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, signed by His Excellency, Pres. Benigno Simeon S. Aquino III, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, vice Renato Corona."

On the page addressed to Sereno, Aquino said: "Pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, you are hereby appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. By virtue hereof, you may qualify and enter upon the performance of the duties of the office, furnishing this Office and the Civil Service Commission with copies of your oath of office."

She is the first lady Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines and will serve a term of 18 years. Because of her appointment, not one of the sitting more senior justices of the high court -- all 14 of them -- will ascend to the chief justiceship.

Below is the profile of Chief Justice Sereno:

Associate Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno is the first appointee to the Supreme Court (SC) by Pres. Noynoy Aquino and the youngest among the nominees for Chief Justice coming from the high tribunal.

She was born on July 2, 1960; she is 52 years old.

She completed her law degree at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1984 as Class Valedictorian and cum laude.

As pre-law, she took up AB Economics at the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) where she graduated in 1980.

She completed her secondary education in 1976 at the Quezon City High School, with Honors; her elementary education was completed in 1972 when she graduated Class Salutatorian from the Kamuning Elementary School.

She had her post-graduate degree at the UP School of Economics with the Master of Arts in Economics Program which she finished in 1992. In 1993, she completed another masteral degree, this time, Master of Laws, at the University of Michigan, Michigan, USA.

Justice Sereno was appointed to the Supreme Court on Aug. 13, 2010.

Professional background

She started her career in private practice as a junior associate of the Sycip Salazar Feliciano and Hernandez law firm in 1986.

Starting in1994 up to 2008, she served as legal counsel of various government offices such as the Office of the President (OP), Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI), and WTO-AFTA. Sometime between 1995 to 1996, she headed the Information and Public Division office of the UP Law Complex.

Also, in 1995, she served as consultant for Judicial Reform of the UNDP, WB, and USAID; she served in this capacity up to 2002.

From 1996 to 1999, she was Director of the UP Institute of Legal Studies.

In 1998, she was a counsellor of the WTO Appellate Body.

In 1999, she served as Commissioner and Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform.

Sereno was a lecturer at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Foreign Service Institute from 1996 to 2007.

She served as a lecturer in Electronic Commerce Law at the AIM in 2000, at the same time, at the Murdoch University lecturing on International Business Law from 2001 t0 2002. She also lectured on International Business Law at the University of Western Australia from 2003 up to 2007.

In 2004, she was a lecturer on International Trade Law at the Hague Academy of International Law.

She was a longtime professor at the UP, teaching for 20 years, from 1986 to 2002.

She became the Executive Director of the AIM in 2009, a post she held on to for a year.

Sereno became president of ACCESSLAW, Inc. in 2000, a post she continues to enjoy up to the present.

Awards, other credentials

In her 25 years as a lawyer and educator, Sereno received the following awards:

- 1998 Outstanding Women in the Nation's Service
- 2000 Most Outstanding Alumna Award, Quezon City High School
- 2003 Most Oustanding Alumna Award, Kamuning Elementary School
- 1991 Provincial Citation, Camarines Sur

She was also able to edit the book, Thirty Years and Beyond (UP Law, 1997).

Sereno was the key writer on Law and Economics and the Constitution and Judicial Review of Economic Decisions.

She also drafted the legal framework for the operations of the first paperless trading of securities in the country for the Bureau of Treasury (BT).

Endorsements for Chief Justice, oppositions

Sereno was not automatically nominated for the top judicial post for being one of the most junior magistrates of the Supreme Court, rather, she was nominated by the following:

- Felma Roel Singco (June 13, 2012)
- Reagan De Guzman (June 13, 2012)
- Atty. Fidel Thaddeus Borja (June 14, 2012)
- Attys. Jordan Pizarras, et al. (June 15, 2012)
- Christian Legal Society through Atty. Salvador Fabregas (June 14, 2012)
- Bishop Efraim Tendero (June 18, 2012)
- UP Women's Circle (June 13, 2012)

Notable Ponencias

State of Emergency in Sulu

Sereno authored the Supreme Court decision nullifying the proclamation of a state of emergency in the southern province of Sulu in 2009 during the kidnapping of 3 members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The high court en banc, in the decision dated July 3, 2012, held that only the President of the Republic of the Philippines is vested with emergency powers and, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and leader of the Philippine National Police (PNP), call out the military and state security forces to respond to a state of emergency, local or otherwise.

Sereno wrote: "[I]t has already been established that there is one repository of executive powers, and that is the President of the Republic... Corollarily, it is only the President, as Executive, who is authorized to exercise emergency powers as provided under Sec. 23., Art. VI, of the Constitution, as well as what became known as the calling-out powers under Sec. 7, Art. VII thereof."

Lenny Villa case

She also penned the decision finding 5 members of Ateneo De Manila Law School's Aquila Legis Fraternity liable for the brutal hazing of Leonardo "Lenny" Villa in February 1991.

In the resolution, the high court held that  Fidelito Dizon, Antonio Mariano Almeda, Junel Anthony Ama, Renato Bantug, Jr. and Vincent Tecson were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

In her ponencia, Sereno wrote: “[T]he collective acts of the fraternity members were tantamount to recklessness, which made the resulting death of Lenny a culpable felony. It must be remembered that organizations owe to their initiates a duty of care not to cause them injury in the process. With the foregoing facts, we rule that the accused are guilty of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. Since the NBI medico-legal officer found that the victim’s death was the cumulative effect of the injuries suffered, criminal responsibility redounds to all those who directly participated in and contributed to the infliction of physical injuries."