Sereno will make hopeful years for women’s access to justice

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) welcomes the appointment of the first woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Maria Lourdes Punzalan Aranal Sereno.  As the country’s very first woman to head the judiciary, Sereno’s appointment marks a big achievement in Filipino women’s history, or rather, herstory.

Citing Sereno as having worked with the then National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (former name of PCW) as co-author of legal and judicial education pioneer Atty. Myrna Feliciano for the book, “A Gender Analysis of Philippines Laws” (1989), Chairperson Remedios I. Rikken is hopeful Sereno’s advocacy to open wide the judiciary’s doors for people’s access to information and justice would include increasing women’s access to justice and healing.

“Sereno’s expertise in gender analysis and commitment to transparency will make way for reforms that make justice attuned to women’s needs, particularly those who are from the poor and marginalized communities, and are in special circumstances such as sexual and domestic violence, armed conflict, the children and elderly, and persons with disabilities,” Rikken says.

PCW has been collaborating with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in promoting women’s access to justice by working with justices, lawyers, police, educators and civil society groups. One goal is to eliminate gender-based discrimination in the culture and language of the courts and the entire chain of justice.

Since 2007, the number of women in the judiciary has slightly increased. In 2007, 32 percent of the total incumbent judges in the first and second level courts, including Shari’a courts, were women. In 2008 and 2009, it went up to 33 percent. By 2010, it reached 34 percent.  In the Supreme Court (SC), there were 3 women out of 15 justices in 2001; 4 out of 15 in 2002; 4 out of 14 in 2003; 5 out of 15 in 2004; and, 5 out of 15 in 2007.

Currently, SC has two other women justices, namely Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro and Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe. The remaining 11 justices are all males.

“We need people like Chief Justice Sereno who can lead in transforming the judiciary, including eliminating gender biases that are harmful to women,” Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa explains.

“We’d love to see Chief Justice Sereno soon and work with her,” Rikken concludes.