MANILA, Philippines - Lawyer Lourdes A. Sereno on Monday took her oath as the new associate justice of the Supreme Court, the first to be appointed by President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.
Sereno took her oath before Aquino in Malacañang on Monday.
Aquino said he did not personally know Sereno despite being schoolmates at the Ateneo de Manila University. Sereno graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 1980 while Aquino graduated a year later, also with an economics degree.
"Ateneo at that time was 2,000 students strong. Siguro iisa lang ang canteen namin dun. Nagkasalubong siguro kami at some point in time. We’re both economics majors. Honestly, I don’t really recall ever having met her or having debated with her or being in the same class. May one batch na difference,” Aquino told reporters after the oath-taking.
The President said he was impressed with Sereno's credentials especially after she won the Philippine government’s case against German firm Fraport AG and the Philippine International Air Terminals Corp. (Piatco) before international arbitration tribunals involving the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.
He said he and Sereno also share the same views on the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which was later ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
He said Sereno also helped launch a study on planned reforms in the judicial system. "Ngayong andyan na sya, ma i-implement nang mas mabilis sa palagay ko, yung mga pagbabagong kailangan sa ating hudikatura,” Aquino said.
The President said Sereno's appointment went through a proper review.
“Number one, wala tayong question kung nasa timely manner ba. Talagang sinunod natin lahat ng proseso dito. At palagay ko naman, maraming puri ang inabot natin sa paghirang kay Justice Sereno. Maraming nakaka-recognize ng talagang aking talino, galing at nagawa na. Hindi ho promise pero yung actuality na nagawa na niya na talagang makakadagdag sa ating Korte Suprema,” he said.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago earlier praised Aquino for appointing Sereno as the 15th justice of the Supreme Court, saying the country could very well have a strong candidate for its first-ever female chief justice.
Santiago and Sereno share the same background as cum laude graduates of the University of the Philippines’ College of Law and got degrees in law at the University of Michigan in the United States.
"She is brilliant. It is fortuitous that she was appointed very young. She will earn the necessary seniority and eventually become the first female chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court,” Santiago said in a statement.
She added: "Sereno’s appointment is a triumph of superior intellect over shabby politics. I admire President Aquino for his impartiality and preference for intellectual merit."
The senator also pointed out that by appointing Sereno, the President is not paying off a political debt or investing in a political asset. "Obviously, he merely chose the best and the brightest. In our country, that is an achievement in itself,” she said.