(Dis)grace Under Pressure

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's impassioned speeches and pious demeanour at the University of the Philippines Chapel has turned her own impeachment into a circus. It has set off, instead of widespread sympathy, negative opinion of her and awakened long-standing suspicions about her character and fitness to be Chief Justice.

To begin with, Sereno’s appointment in 2012 was controversial on the alleged possibility that she was not psychologically fit. That was reportedly the verdict of psychologists commissioned to evaluate her as an applicant for SC Justice.

It was also contentious in that it she leapfrogged many of the more senior, and we dare say, accomplished justices like J. Antonio Carpio.

Plus, the fact alone that she was a classmate of then President Benigno Aquino III, and whose appointment came on the heels of the high-profile removal of her predecessor, Chief Justice Renato Corona, left a proverbial bad taste in the mouth.

While she may not have committed any culpable violations of the Constitution, Sereno’s response to the pressure—what appeared to be an image-building stunt as a Catholic churchgoer (she is not Catholic) and her political statements ahead of the impeachment process—shows a frantic person unable to withstand stress. 

In contrast, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales appears to be doing a better job at it, comporting herself well amid similar allegations.

Some quarters opine at just how politicized the Supreme Court has become, more so today with its Chief Justice lacking the steely calmness of her predecessors.

At this point, the impeachment proceedings have made her persona the very issue in this entire episode, as her body of work as Chief Justice since 2012 is all the more placed under public scrutiny.