Sereno taps Ateneo dean for communications strategy

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Nov 19 2012 01:43 PM | Updated as of Nov 20 2012 12:53 AM

Ateneo dean to seek inputs from media, Midas Marquez

Ateneo School of Government Dean Antonio La Viña
MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has hired a consultant to assess the Supreme Court’s public information office (SC PIO) amid miscommunications that have affected the institution due to her “dignified silence” stance.

Ateneo School of Government Dean Antonio La Viña confirmed to he has been tapped for one year to give advise and “strengthen” the public information office of the high court.

He said he has yet to come up with recommendations, having been given the task only two weeks ago. He said initial inputs may be ready by the first three months of 2013.

La Viña said his appointment is technical aid given his expertise on good governance. “[It will be about] technical assistance…We do this all the time [at the Ateneo School of Governance].”

Sereno, soon after being appointed by President Benigno Aquino III in September, implemented a “dignified silence” stance. She said at that time: “Wisdom leads me to seek to return the Supreme Court to its days of dignified silence when justices were heard and read through their writings, and when actions of the court were best seen in their collective resolutions.”

Media dialogues

La Viña said he has just started reviewing the processes, specifically the internal operations of the PIO.

He said his next step is to have a dialogue with the members of the media, who have been seeking ways to inform the public of the goings-on in the SC despite the controlled issuances of high court decisions.

Asked if he will also get inputs from Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, he said: “We will get inputs from everyone.”

The PIO was first set up during the time of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. He said then that the Supreme Court should be understood by the common people.

Thereafter, the three chief justices who succeeded Davide--Art Panganiban, Reynato Puno, Renato Corona--maintained the PIO and its employees.

In the long history of the Supreme Court, there have been only two spokespersons: Ishmael Khan, followed by Marquez, who became the most familiar face on television having instituted regular press conferences.

Marquez was removed as PIO chief, however, when the Senate voted oust from office Chief Justice Renato Corona in May.

However, Marquez still holds the position of court administrator.

Asked if he would recommend the appointment of another spokesperson, La Viña said he will still assess the matter.


La Viña said any recommendation that will come out from his assessments will be vis-à-vis the dignified silence mantra of Sereno.

He said he supports the policy but “we still have to look at how it’s being implemented.”

While some have hailed the policy, some political pundits criticized its rigid implementation. The public information office no longer holds regular press conferences. The release of decisions on high-profile cases also come out late.

Weeks ago, a decision regarding a case involving former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo created confusion.

In a resolution dated October 24, 2012, the high court’s third division said it is "enjoining the Sandiganbayan from implementing its assailed resolution dated October 3, which ordered the issuance of an arrest warrant versus petitioner, among others." It was later clarified that the ruling was only for Commission on Audit-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda B. Plaras.

The PIO usually relies on orders from the justices before making announcements.

Asked if he’s open to becoming the SC spokesman himself, La Viña said: “No, I have a full time job.”

He also denied the consultancy job has something to do with his being close to Sereno. He and the chief magistrate were classmates back in college at the Ateneo de Manila and also at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

La Viña is not an unfamiliar figure in the SC. He worked with Marquez in the “Moral Force Movement” set up by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.