Tuesday 19 June, 2018
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Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin

Bersamin explains Sereno as a ‘dictator’, ‘queen’; and difference between taking offense and harboring a grudge

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Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin has used his concurring opinion in the Supreme Court’s 8-6 decision ousting former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to explain his controversial testimony in Congress two months ago.

Bersamin denied alluding to Sereno as a “dictator” during the question and answer portion of the impeachment hearing against Sereno.

Bersamin said it was unfair for Sereno to use his “hypothetical statement” to congressmen last March as part of her basis to call for his inhibition in the quo warranto case.

” I harbored no ill will or malice towards her in appearing at the inquiry because my doing so had been priorly approved by the Court En Banc. The queries posed to me by some of the Members of the Committee on Justice were varied but I faithfully observed the parameters prescribed by the Court for the purpose.

“I deny alluding to the respondent as a ‘dictator’. My answers in this regard were grossly taken out of context by her…My statement was clearly hypothetical about what the Court would become if any of its Members, including her as the Chief Justice, was to act dictatorially,” said Bersamin. In reply to Rep. Rodante Marcoleta’s question on the lack of cooperative interaction between the magistrates, Bersamin said:”Ang Supreme Court ay hindi po maaring mag-function kung isa ay diktador.”

He described his answer as “very cogent and neutral, and devoid of any bias against or animosity towards her.”To further prove his point, Bersamin cited his follow-up to elaborate on his first reply: “Kaila[ng]an po lahat ng 15 members, maliit na samahan iyan, kaniya-kaniyang hoses, kaniya- kaniyang boto. Kaya nagkaroon diyan ng possibility of a majority and a minority.” “I was thereby dutifully explaining the democratic regime being adhered to by the Court in conducting its institutional affairs, including its
deliberations and other actions. How could such answer be misunderstood in the sad light she complained about?” said Bersamin.

Bersamin, however, admitted that he felt offended by Sereno’s attitude of ignoring the SC’s collegiality to explain why she called out Sereno for acting like royalty when she decided withdraw the privilege of Justices to recommend nominees to High Court vacancies.

“Hindi ko po puwedeng itanggi na ako po ay offended by those kinds of attitude on the part of a leader who would deprive her colleagues, primus inter pares lang po siya eh. Hindi naman siya po reyna na titingnan, titingalain at susundin,” said Bersamin in his reply to further questioning from Marcoleta.

Bersamin said this “was a very natural and legitimate sentiment” and “it would have been pure hypocrisy on my part to suppress or conceal such sentiment.”

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