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COCKTALES | Sereno court off to a slow, relaxed start means BUSINESS

Five months into the job, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno seems unable to translate her enthusiasm and passion for the position into faster disposition of cases pending before the high tribunal.

And the Sereno court's output for December, at 49 decided cases, is the second lowest in recent history, after the troubled Corona court's 47 cases disposed in December 2011.

According to the Supreme Court website, the Sereno court took an early Christmas break from decision-making, disposing one last case on December 11, before resuming session last January 7. The Corona court, meanwhile, stopped disposing cases after December 16, 2011, with two cases decided.

In contrast, the Puno court, for its last December session, disposed of 108 cases,  24 of them handed down on December 23, 2009, before the Protestant chief justice resumed the court and started issuing decisions on January 6, 2010.

And in 2008, the Puno court decided cases up to December 24, issuing a record of 18 decisions amid all the Christmas rush.

Asked for comment on the Sereno record, a Supreme Court spokesman said:

"We are preparing the 2012 annual report required by the Constitution to be submitted to the President and Congress covering Chief Justice Sereno's first months in office."

Even absent the Yuletide distractions, the same relaxed pace seems to mark the Sereno record.

According to publicly-available records, the Sereno court disposed of 220 cases from September to November, the first three full months of the country's first female chief justice.

The record is a far cry from the 380 decisions issued during the same period in 2009, when Reynato Puno was the chief magistrate.

The Sereno pace was slightly better than the 212 cases disposed of during the same three-month period in 2011 under the watch of Renato Corona, who was then worrying about his looming impeachment battle.

Even a decade ago, when computerization of judicial records was still at its infancy, the Davide court had disposed of a more productive 271 cases within the same three-month period.

Not only did the Sereno court turn out fewer cases, the present Supreme Court took  the same long Halloween break from decision-making as that of the Corona court.

The Sereno court stopped handing down decisions last October 24 and resumed only on November 12, while the Corona court's Halloween break was from October 20 to November 13, 2011, and October 21-November 14 the year before.

Of all the recent chief justices, it was Artemio Panganiban who brought a private sector-stride in his less-than-a-year reign.

The Panganiban court deliberated and handed down decisions until October 31, and resumed the judicial grind right after the All Saints' Day break on November 2.

Email Vic Agustin at