Manila. President Benigno Aquino on Friday named a veteran judge as the first female chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, following his controversial ousting of her predecessor.
Supreme Court associate justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, 52, was named to take the place of ousted chief justice Renato Corona after he was impeached by Aquino’s congressional allies in May amid a public feud with the president.
Aquino had sought the sacking of then-chief justice Corona, saying it was part of his anti-corruption reforms. But critics said he wanted to ensure his control of the court.
“The president is confident that Chief Justice Sereno will lead the judiciary in undertaking much-needed reforms,” Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
He added one of Aquino’s considerations in appointing her was the need to reform the judiciary in the Philippines, which has been dogged by accusations of a slow pace, waste of resources, and corruption.
Lacierda also said that under Philippine law, where Supreme Court justices retire at 70, Sereno could serve as chief justice for 18 years, giving her the time to enact necessary reforms.
Aquino informed Sereno earlier she would be appointed to the top post and that her reaction was “one of surprise,” Lacierda said.
But he stressed Aquino would respect the independence of the court.
Sereno, who was formerly a private lawyer and law professor, had also served on both the government’s Commission on Human Rights and the World Trade Organizations’ appellate body in Geneva.
She was appointed by Aquino to the Supreme Court in August 2010 just months after he was elected president on an anti-corruption platform.