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Ronald Roy — 2012 August 30

I’m no male chauvinist, but let’s cast aside our reservations about the new 52 year old Chief Justice, Hon. Maria Lourdes Sereno, and support her judicial reform agenda. In light of my article “Conscience and Wisdom” published a month ago, 52 indeed would be much too young—although permissible under the basic charter which sets the minimum age requirement at 40 for magistrates—leaving skeptics to suspect that, apart from being Pres. Aquino’s pet choice, she is not yet wise enough to steer effectively the judiciary through the shifty legal vagaries of her time.

Arguably, an appointment of a woman her age might not have been controversial if made in the 1940s through the 1960s when life was more peaceful and less complicated. In any event, CJ Sereno is the new top honcho of the judiciary where—barring unforeseen events, she’ll be around for the next 18 years spanning four presidential terms including that of P-Noy—it would be totally asinine and unpatriotic for anyone to be even lukewarm to her reformist vows.

In my opinion, CJ Sereno’s reform agenda should focus on two things, first, giving the poor access to the courts more than to the rich, and second, restoring the democratic structure of checks and balances among the three branches of government, which presently is exceedingly dominated by the Executive Department.

The lady magistrate’s tasks are certain to be daunting, and any serious failure can prove very repercussive given the people’s patience for reforms wearing thin.

Reader Scotty Bridges advances the bracing view that “while 70 is the theoretical peak of wisdom that begins at 40, fifty-ish would be about the right age to work the grey matter on the bench, given that vigor and mental toughness will be needed by CJ Sereno to climb the steep mount ahead.” Scotty’s comment is deeply appreciated here.

Indeed, the steep climb ahead! Presently, it’s all jubilation for herself, her family, friends and supporters, and it will take some time before the awareness of the awesome power just reposed on her sinks in. This power, initially incipient, can become destructive if not reined back, for such is its essential nature.

It will therefore do CJ Sereno well to not cross the line, beyond which lies Tacitus’ caveat that “Lust of power is the most flagrant of all the passions.” Would that she likewise pondered the words of Thomas Jefferson: “I have never been able to conceive how any rational human being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.”

For, that power to deliver justice to close to a hundred million Filipinos is power over life and death, peace and war, or to nurse or stop greed, or to corrupt wantonly; and that power, like the delicious-looking apple in the Garden of Eden, will be coveted by others.

But I think CJ Sereno is not naïve. She knows she should not trust people, strangers especially, who will come to dance attendance on her. She knows she should be wary of a looming future as a favorite of opportunists for her to stand as wedding ninang for the next 18 years.

She knows she must be cautious with Sigma Rhoans, Brutuses and Cassiuses, and even with new household hires who naturally are privy to family matters. She feels the G-men of former presidents Ramos and Arroyo may snipe at her allegedly undeclared income in the form of over a million dollars worth of legal fees paid by the government for her services as counsel in the high-profile Frapport NAIA 3 arbitration case.

She knows she hasn’t heard the last from leftist peasant groups, and that her enemies will not stop at anything. Or, doesn’t she? Only time will tell.

But as regards the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse          Robredo (JR), on the other hand, Time will soon confirm that the Liberal Party (LP) bigwigs have not recognized a national hero. They have created one, by heaping such lavish encomiums and honors that would have befitted Dr. José Protacio Rizál himself. Was not all that extravagant hoopla designed for the Liberal Party (which was founded by Mar’s grandfather, Manuel Roxas) to upstage UNA in the forthcoming elections?

They have transformed a hometown hero into a national hero, one whose “tsinelas leadership” will continue to guide and inspire Nagueños in the art and science of city-hood management and corruption-free governance, in a milieu free of jueteng lords and drug lords, human traffickers and other criminal elements, in fine: a city-size showcase of democracy of Nagueños, for Nagueños and by Nagueños.  JR loved them, and they loved him back.

Now it can be told—if confidential information reaching me is true—he was not all that happy working with the President’s cabinet. On the recommendation of Sec. Mar Roxas, JR was appointed to the DILG post by P-Noy who did not know him well, and he would shortly suspect the LP bigwigs had never seriously intended to support his agenda of good governance for local government units throughout the country.

He had two reasons for feeling bad. One was that no one but no one, not even the President, lifted a finger to ensure smooth sailing through the Commission on Appointments which twice bypassed his appointment. The other reason was that nobody seemed to care about his Vision.

JR had prepared and lined up some plans and programs, specific projects in fact, and had kept them in his office. But he could not get them started because the budget allocations meant for his department were not released for some mysterious reasons.

But, perhaps, not as mysteriously as one would think, if one considers that the documents might have outlined a master plan for a nation-wide eradication of jueteng and drug abuse, to cite just two scourges that are the bane of society and the treasure trove for some local and national officials, who entered the public service for reasons rather than rendering service.

After JR’s body was found, those documents were placed under lock and key on orders of DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima. Do they contain names, big names like those of sacred cows known as narco politicians?

Did Jesse Robredo know too much? The Philippine National Police was within his ambit of authority, so he knew how much power he wielded in the crime scene, as much as he would in the elections scene. But, alas, he was powerless throughout his Cabinet stint!

Has de Lima given the President a full report on the documents? The midterm elections are virtually just around the corner, so we demand some answers. Oh, my God, have the papers been shredded?!

For now, we are facing a blank wall. But who knows? Jesse—was Jesus his baptismal or registered name?—may goad Time to ferret out the truth.

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