Maria Lourdes Sereno

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Maria Lourdes Sereno
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.jpg
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
De facto[a]
In office
August 25, 2012 – May 11, 2018
On leave from March 1 – May 9, 2018[b]
Appointed by Benigno Aquino III
Preceded by Renato Corona
Succeeded by Antonio Carpio (Acting)
169th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
In office
August 13, 2010 – August 25, 2012
Appointed by Benigno Aquino III
Preceded by Renato Corona
Succeeded by Marvic Leonen
Personal details
Born Maria Lourdes Punzalan Aranal
(1960-07-02) July 2, 1960 (age 57)
Manila, Philippines
Education Ateneo de Manila University (BA)
University of the Philippines, Diliman (LLB)
University of Michigan (LLM)

Maria Lourdes Aranal Sereno (Tagalog: [sɛˈrɛnɔ], born Maria Lourdes Punzalan Aranal; July 2, 1960) is a Filipina lawyer and judge who served as de facto[1] Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines from 2012 until her removal in 2018. Appointed to the Court by President Benigno Aquino III in 2012, she became the second youngest person (at the age of 52) and the first woman to head the judiciary.[2] She was removed from office by way of an 8–6 decision by the Supreme Court over a quo warranto petition, rendering her appointment as Chief Justice null and void.[1] Sereno's supporters claim that the impeachment and quo warranto petition was politically motivated, as she was seen as one of President Rodrigo Duterte's critics.[3][4][5][6][7]


Sereno was born on July 2, 1960, in Manila, to Margarito Aranal, a native of Siasi, Sulu, and Soledad Punzalan, who served as a public school teacher. She is married to Mario Jose E. Sereno of Davao City. They have two children, Maria Sophia and Jose Lorenzo.[8]


Sereno graduated salutatorian from Kamuning Elementary School in 1972 and with honors from Quezon City High School in 1976.[9]

A scholarship allowed her to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in economics at Ateneo de Manila University in 1980. She finished her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines College of Law, graduating as cum laude and class valedictorian, passing the bar in 1984.[10]

She obtained a Master of Arts in economics from the University of the Philippines School of Economics in 1992. She earned a Master of Laws from the University of Michigan Law School in 1993.[11]

She is an alumna of the UP Portia Sorority.[12]


Sereno started her career as a junior associate of the Sycip Salazar Feliciano and Hernandez law firm.[11]

At the age of 38, she was appointed as legal counselor at the World Trade Organization's Appellate Body Secretariat in Geneva.[13]

She was the only female member of the 1999 Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform where she headed the commission’s Steering Committee. In the same year, with Justice Jose Campos, Commissioner Haydee Yorac, and other professors from the UP College of Law, she co-founded Accesslaw, a corporation that provided the first annotated electronic research system in Philippine law.[13]

She also served as legal counsel for various government offices including the Office of the President, Office of the Solicitor General, Manila International Airport Authority, and the Department of Trade and Industry. She previously headed the Information and Public Division office of the UP Law Complex. She was also a faculty member at The Hague Academy of International Law in Cambodia.[11]

At the time of her appointment as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Sereno was executive director of the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center. She was also the president of Accesslaw Inc., had taught at University of the Philippines College of Law for 19 years, and served as a consultant for the United Nations, World Bank, and US Agency for International Development.[14]

Sereno served as a co-counsel with Justice Florentino Feliciano on the Fraport case in Singapore, in which the Republic of the Philippines won the case.[15]

Supreme Court of the Philippines

Sereno at Andres Narvasa's funeral in 2013

In August 2010, she was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, its 169th Member and the first appointee to the High Court by President Benigno Aquino III. Sereno, the 13th woman appointed as Justice of the Supreme Court, was the youngest appointee to the court since Manuel Moran in 1945 until Marvic Leonen surpassed her at the age of 49 in 2012.[16]

On August 24, 2012, President Aquino announced his appointment of Justice Sereno as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Renato Corona, who was removed from office in May 2012 after being convicted in an impeachment trial.[2]

Sereno voted against several of President Rodrigo Duterte's proposals, such as declaring martial law and burying Ferdinand Marcos in a cemetery reserved for national heroes.[17] Sereno also took a stance on Duterte's Philippine Drug War when she called for due process for those included in Duterte's "drug list", a list of people alleged to be involved in the illegal drug trade.[18]

In a televised public speech in April 2018, Duterte addressed the Chief Justice thus: "So I’m putting you on notice that I am now your enemy. And you have to be out of the Supreme Court."[19] after Sereno accused him of interfering with the case.

Removal from office

An impeachment process against Sereno began on August 30, 2017, when 25 lawmakers filed a petition against her for failure to declare her wealth in full during her 17-year teaching period at the University of the Philippines College of Law.[20][21]


Republic of the Philippines v. Maria Lourdes Sereno
Seal of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines.svg
Court Supreme Court of the Philippines
Full case name Republic of the Philippines, represented by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida versus Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno
Decided May 11, 2018 (2018-05-11)
Citation(s) G. R. No. 237428
Case history
Subsequent action(s) Motion for reconsideration filed on May 31, 2018; denied with finality on June 19, 2018
Related action(s) Impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives for the determination of probable cause due to the failure to declare Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN), tax misdeclarations and unauthorized expenses
  • Granting the petition for the issuance of the extraordinary writ of quo warranto to declare respondent guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of the Chief Justice and thereby ousted and excluded her from holding the position
  • Order to show cause for violating Code of Professional Responsibility and Code of Judicial Conduct for transgressing the Sub judice rule
Court membership
Judges sitting Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo
Case opinions
Decision by Associate Justice Noel Tijam
Concurrence Justices de Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Jardeleza, Tijam, Martires, Reyes, and Gesmundo
Concur/dissent Justices Velasco Jr. and del Castillo
Dissent Justices Carpio, Bernabe, Leonen, Caguioa

On August 30, 2017, at least 25 members of the House of Representatives supported the impeachment against the Chief Justice.[22] The main reasons for the impeachment proceedings, according to the complainant, lawyer Larry Gadon, was that Sereno allegedly failed to declare her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) and was also responsible for tax misdeclarations and unauthorized expenses.[22] The University of the Philippines (UP) and the Office of the Ombudsman could only produce Sereno’s SALNs from the years 1998, 2002, and 2006.[23][24]

Meanwhile, a later quo warranto petition claims that despite having been employed at the University of the Philippines College of Law from November 1986 to June 1, 2006, Sereno's Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) records at the UP HRDO only include those for the years 1985, 1990, 1991, 1993-1997, and 2002, while her SALN records at the Office of the Ombudsman produced by the office for perusal only include those from the years 1999–2009.[1]


Following the impeachment process filed against her, Sereno took an indefinite leave on March 1, 2018, but said she would not resign.[25][26] Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio served as Acting Chief Justice, previously served during the transition between Corona's impeachment and appointment of Sereno.[27] She ended her leave on May 9, 2018.[28] Sereno's spokesperson and lawyer Jojo Lacanilao denied to ANC that Sereno was forced to go on leave.[29] Oriental Mindoro Representative Rey Umali, however, urged Sereno to resign.[30]

On March 8, the House of Representatives found probable cause to impeach Sereno due to "allegations that Sereno committed culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes" by a vote of 38–2.[31] In addition, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition to invalidate her appointment as chief justice over alleged lack of integrity. Sereno questioned the petition, insisting that the only legal way to remove her from her post was impeachment.[32]

Deciding on the quo warranto petition en banc,[33] the Supreme Court justices voted to remove Sereno from the court on May 11, 2018, by a vote of 8-6[1], making Sereno the first officer in the Philippines unlawfully holding office to be removed from office without an impeachment trial.[34] According to Sereno's lawyer, Sereno is filing a motion for reconsideration of the decision.[35][36], which she filed on May 31, 2018.

Supreme Court decision of removal Sereno[37]
In Favor (8) Opposed (6)

The Supreme Court denied with finality Sereno's motion for reconsideration for lack of merit on June 19, 2018 voting 8-6, upholding the quo warranto decision. The ruling also states that no further pleading will be entertained as well as order for immediate entry of judgement.[38]


Case opinions

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio voted against the removal of Sereno from office through the quo warranto petition, but nevertheless wrote in his dissenting opinion that her "repeated non-filing of SALN" constitutes "a culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, which are grounds for impeachment under the Constitution".[39]

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, in his dissenting opinion, called the petition "a legal abomination" that should have been dismissed. He expressed disfavor in removing an impeachable official through a quo warranto petition, writing: "We render this Court subservient to an aggressive Solicitor General. We render those who present dissenting opinions unnecessarily vulnerable to powerful interests."[19][40]


The petitioner, Solicitor General Jose Calida, stated: "The Supreme Court decision ousting Maria Lourdes Sereno augurs well for the country, as it preserves the stability and integrity of the Judiciary. This decision is the epitome of its exercise of judicial independence."[41]

Senator Antonio Trillanes said that the Supreme Court Justices had committed a "heinous crime against our justice system".[41]

The New York-based Human Rights Watch called the decision "unprecedented and nefarious," adding that "Sereno’s ouster also kicks open the door for wanton removals of members of other constitutional bodies, such as the Commission on Human Rights. ... Ultimately, the rejection of constitutional checks and balances concentrates power in the hands of Duterte and his allies, posing the greatest danger to democracy in the Philippines since the Marcos dictatorship."[42]


With the removal of Maria Lourdes Sereno from her post as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, she altogether leaves the high court. When she was appointed Chief Justice, she vacated her position as Associate Justice and therefore cannot assume her former position again. She may still file a motion for reconsideration against the Supreme Court's decision to remove her as Chief Justice, which she filed on May 31, 2018. The decision will become final after a ruling for the motion of reconsideration is released[43]; the Supreme Court then upheld their earlier ruling on June 19, 2018, denying Sereno's motion for reconsideration with finality.[38]

Senior Justice Antonio Carpio assumed the post of Chief Justice in an acting capacity starting May 14, 2018, following Sereno's removal from office.[44]


  • Awardee for Law, The Outstanding Women in the Nation's Service (TOWNS), 1998[13]


  1. ^ Maria Lourdes Sereno was removed on May 11, 2018, via quo warranto by a special en banc session which also ruled that the Chief Justice post vacant; the petition alleged Sereno's appointment was void ab initio due to her failure in complying with the Judicial and Bar Council requirements. Hence, her tenure is now considered de facto.[1]
  2. ^ Duties and powers transferred to Antonio Carpio while on leave.


  1. ^ a b c d e "G.R. No. 237428. May 11, 2018" (PDF). Supreme Court of the Philippines. May 11, 2018. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "Sereno is 1st female chief justice". Rappler. August 24, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2018. 
  3. ^ Ballaran, Jhoanna. "Political analyst believes Sereno oust bid is politically motivated". Retrieved May 16, 2018. 
  4. ^ "Philippine chief justice Sereno, Duterte's critic, removed". Retrieved May 16, 2018. 
  5. ^ hermesauto (February 27, 2018). "Embattled Philippine Supreme Court chief goes on leave amid resignation rumours". Retrieved May 16, 2018. 
  6. ^ "Robredo: Public disagreements among SC justices 'wounded' its integrity -". Retrieved May 16, 2018. 
  7. ^ "Philippine legislators vote to impeach chief justice -". Retrieved May 16, 2018. 
  8. ^ Mayol, Ador Vincent; Napallacan, Jhunnex (August 25, 2012). "Sereno, 52, will have second longest tenure in High Court". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 12, 2018. 
  9. ^ Caruncho, Eric S. (March 4, 2018). "CJ Lourdes Sereno: The 'Batang Kamuning' in fighting form". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 12, 2018. 
  10. ^ "Next Chief Justice". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 12, 2018. 
  11. ^ a b c Reformina, Ina (August 24, 2012). "Profile: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno". ABS-CBN. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Laban sis! UP Portia Sorority backs Sereno amid resignation calls". Retrieved May 12, 2018. 
  13. ^ a b c "Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno". Government of the Philippines. Retrieved May 12, 2018. 
  14. ^ Torres, Tetch (August 24, 2012). "Sereno appointed as new Chief Justice". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  15. ^ de Santos, Jonathan (August 24, 2012). "PH gets first ever lady Chief Justice in Lourdes Sereno". Yahoo! News. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Peace negotiator Leonen named to Supreme Court; youngest justice since '38". GMA News Online. Retrieved May 12, 2018. 
  17. ^ "Philippine Supreme Court removes Duterte 'enemy' judge". Reuters. May 11, 2018. Retrieved May 13, 2018. 
  18. ^ Merez,, Arianne; Quintos, Patrick; Reformina, Ina; Manabat, Johnson (May 11, 2018). "Supreme Court ousts Chief Justice Sereno". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
  19. ^ a b "Fear for democracy after top Philippine judge and government critic removed". The Guardian. 12 May 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018. 
  20. ^ "Palace: Quo warranto petition vs Sereno 'unprecedented'". ABS-CBN News. 
  21. ^ "Gadon complaint over SALN shows desperation: Sereno lawyer". ABS-CBN News. 
  22. ^ a b "25 lawmakers endorse impeachment complaint vs Sereno". Rappler. 
  23. ^ "SC en banc wants Sereno to explain missing SALNs". 
  24. ^ "Who is Larry Gadon, the man behind one Sereno impeachment complaint?". Rappler. Retrieved 2018-05-13. 
  25. ^ "Sereno asserts 'indefinite leave is not a resignation'". ABS-CBN News. 
  26. ^ "Sereno to go on 'indefinite leave'". ABS-CBN News. 
  27. ^ Punay, Edu (May 12, 2018). "The dissent:'Sereno liable but must be impeached'". The Philippine Star. Retrieved May 12, 2018. 
  28. ^ Requejo, Rey (May 10, 2018). "Sereno returns to work, faces SC ouster decision". Manila Standard. Retrieved May 10, 2018. 
  29. ^ "Was Sereno forced to take a leave from the Supreme Court?". ABS-CBN News. 
  30. ^ "Umali to Sereno: Do country a favor and resign". ABS-CBN News. 
  31. ^ "House justice panel finds probable cause to impeach Sereno". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 
  32. ^ Nagrimas, Nicole Ann (May 10, 2018). "Law profs say quo warranto vs. Sereno unconstitutional". GMA News. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
  33. ^ Canlas, Jomar (May 11, 2018). "Chief Justice Sereno ousted". Manila Times. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
  34. ^ Torres-Tupas, Tetch (May 11, 2018). "Justices remove Sereno from SC". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 11, 2018. 
  35. ^ "Sereno to appeal her ouster". ABS-CBN. 
  36. ^ Punay, Edu (May 12, 2018). "Supreme Court Ousts Sereno". The Philippine Star. Retrieved May 13, 2018. 
  37. ^ "Supreme Court ousts Chief Justice Sereno". Rappler. 
  38. ^ a b "G.R. No. 237428. June 19, 2018" (PDF). Supreme Court of the Philippines. June 19, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2018. 
  39. ^ "Despite dissent, Carpio says Sereno guilty of impeachable offense". ABSCBN News. Archived from the original on May 14, 2018. Retrieved May 14, 2018. 
  40. ^ Morallo, Audrey (11 May 2018). "Ouster petition vs Sereno a 'legal abomination,' says dissenting justice". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 14 May 2018. 
  41. ^ a b "Senators react on Sereno ouster; petitioners hail "historic victory"". UNTV News and Rescue. Archived from the original on May 12, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2018. 
  42. ^ "Human Rights Watch condemns 'nefarious' Sereno ouster". 
  43. ^ Morallo, Audrey (11 May 2018). "After ouster, Sereno can't return to previous associate justice post". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 14 May 2018. 
  44. ^ Panaligan, Rey (13 May 2018). "Carpio assumes SC Chief Justice position". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 13 May 2018. 
Legal offices
Preceded by
Renato Corona
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Marvic Leonen
Preceded by
Renato Corona
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
de facto

Succeeded by
Antonio Carpio
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