New Chief Justice: Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno

Editor's note: We are republishing in full the profile of newly-appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno that appears on the website of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. The text which follows is a property of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.


Lawyer-academician Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno was appointed on August 16, 2010 as the 169th Justice of the Supreme Court. Born on July 2, 1960, the then 50-year old Justice is the youngest to be appointed to the SC in this century. She may also be one of the longest-serving justices ever, as she is to mandatorily retire in 2030 after serving a 20-year term.

Despite her family’s humble means, Justice Sereno’s parents were able to nurture in her a passion for learning and personal excellence during her formative years. Her father, a native of Siasi, Sulu, and her mother, a public school teacher, saved what little money they had to buy second-hand books that she would eagerly read. Her appetite for literature and reflection served her well during her primary schooling and enabled her to graduate with honors at the Kamuning Elementary School and Quezon City High School. She was then awarded generous scholarships by the government and several private institutions that allowed her to earn an Economics degree at the Ateneo de Manila University, and a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of the Philippines.

After graduating valedictorian from the UP College of Law in 1984, Justice Sereno joined the largest law firm in the country. While she enjoyed her very challenging work in the law firm, her family started to grow. Choosing to spend more time with her two young children and her husband, she opted to leave the law firm in 1986.

She joined the UP College of Law where she was able to mold young men and women in the principles of Civil and Commercial law. From being one of the youngest faculty members, she would eventually go on to lead and administer two institutions based in the UP Law Center – the Institute of International Legal Studies and the Information and Publication Division. She was a professor at the UP College of Law for nearly 20 years. At one point, she also became Deputy Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and was partly responsible for writing the organizational plans for the Commission. She has also taught at the Philippine Judicial Academy and several international academies.

In 1992, Justice Sereno was awarded a De Witte Fellowship and a Ford-Rockefeller Scholarship to pursue her Masters of Laws at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she developed her proficiency in law and economics and international trade law. When she and her family returned to the Philippines, she played a key role in developing those fields of law.

At the age of 38, she was appointed as legal counsellor at the World Trade Organizations’ Appellate Body Secretariat in Geneva. Her international experience and her pioneering achievements in the legal profession were recognized when she was selected as one of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) for law.

At the age of 39, she was chosen as the only female member of the 1999 Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform where she was elected Chairperson of the Commission’s Steering Committee. Here, she helped the various sectoral committees identify key constitutional issues, and integrated their findings into a common framework for analysis of the various constitutional provisions. In the same year, together 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.

Access to justice is one of the centerpiece advocacies of Justice Sereno. One of her earlier works in law school included a review of the interface between domestic laws and indigenous customary laws. The United Nations Development Program would commission her to write a paper on judicial reform, which would eventually become the basis for the first external reform program that was welcomed by the Supreme Court. Among the activities the project birthed was the first-ever dialogue between the Members of the Supreme Court and representatives of the basic sectors. She also assisted in the High Tribunal’s pilot projects on mediation and judicial case management systems, and wrote a widely-quoted survey-based paper on justice and the cost of doing business, together with professors from the UP School of Economics.

Prior to her joining the Court, she was engaged in major international litigation as co-counsel for the Republic, after which she joined the Asian Institute of Management as Executive Director of its think-tank - the AIM Policy Center - where she pursued her interest in policy reform and its impact on governance and the economy.

Believing in what she could deliver for justice and judicial reform, President Benigno C. Aquino III made her his first appointee to the Supreme Court.

She is married to Mario Jose E. Sereno. They are blessed with two children, Maria Sophia and Jose Lorenzo.

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