The Manila Times – Leonen: Not just without integrity, but a low-energy justice

By Rigoberto D. Tiglao | The Manila Times

I SAY Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen has no integrity, using his colleagues’ criteria. In the quo warranto case which booted out Aquino 3rd’s chief justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, the Supreme Court declared that her failure to file her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for six years meant she lacked integrity, and therefore was unfit for the post.

But not only that, the court ruled that her failure to file the SALNs “defeats any claim of integrity as it is inherently immoral to violate the will of the legislature and to violate the Constitution.”

Well, Leonen did not file his SALNs for fifteen years, as I incontestably showed in my column of September 7, which was based not on speculation but on data I secured invoking President Duterte’s freedom of information executive order. Using the court’s definition, Leonen is not just without integrity, but immoral.

I may as well borrow from Dr. Dante Ang’s column title on Tuesday (“Do we have a functioning democracy?”) and ask: Do we have a functioning Supreme Court? Or do we have another exclusive club, concerned more about defending one of their own rather than fulfilling its constitutional mandate of upholding the Republic’s laws?

If it were not, why would it deny the solicitor general’s request for Leonen’s SALNs, or even just state if he did nor did not file the SALNs for the years I claimed he didn’t? By stonewalling the solicitor general’s request, this Supreme Court in effect ignored its 2018 no-SALN-no-integrity declaration.

 

But Leonen isn’t just lacking in integrity and immoral. Going by Supreme Court records, he appears to be either very low-energy and lazy, or intellectually ill-equipped to fulfill his role as a justice.

And to think that at 57 years old, he is the second youngest in the Supreme Court.

According to the court’s data, Leonen at present has 82 pending cases, or cases, that he hasn’t acted upon, with 37 of these assigned to him as long as four years ago. Compare that to the number of pending cases of the oldest, 68-year-old justices Rosmari Carandang (31 cases), Estela Perlas-Bernabe (3) and Edgardo de los Santos (32).

His huge number of unacted cases is a mystery though. Justices all have legal staff who do the research on a case and write the drafts, most of which are really 90 percent unchanged. Isn’t the former law dean aware of that adage, “Justice delayed is justice denied?

The most notorious demonstration of Leonen’s indolence — which I however suspect is deliberate — is Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s election protest that Maria Leonor Robredo cheated her way to the vice presidency.

Leonen was put in charge of the case in October 2019 (it had been filed though in 2016), that is, appointed ponente through a raffle. He made his first move on the case only last September 22 — which was to ask the Commission on Elections and the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on whether to annul the votes cast in certain Mindanao provinces.

Marcos’ protest is a litmus test of our democracy — whether our electoral system really works and stands up to scrutiny, even with the huge financial cost a protester has to bear with such a protest.

Yet Leonen, who in his pre-court days portrayed himself as a passionate champion of justice and democracy has been sitting on it for more than a year.

A Yellow cultist like Robredo, is Leonen’s game plan simply to delay the case so that the Supreme Court gets to rule whether the vice president is an election cheat or not only a few months before the May 2022 national elections, which gives more than a year to exploit to the fullest the vice presidential office, with its P700-million annual budget?

Or maybe, as my colleague Jomar Canlas wrote, Leonen has already pre-judged the case in favor of Robredo, and is merely scouting for arguments for this so the court will back his ruling?

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