The Manila Times - Bar exams duty to worsen Leonen’s case backlog

News & Interviews
11 January 2021

By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen has accepted the chairmanship of the 2021 Bar examinations, a task that is expected to further slow down the disposition of the 981 cases long pending in his sala.

According to The Manila Times sources in the high court, Leonen should have thought twice before accepting the chairmanship, given the case backlog and the impeachment complaint he is facing at the House of Representatives.

One Supreme Court justice who requested anonymity told The Times that managing this year’s tests for aspiring lawyers is going to be more challenging because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ang lakas ng loob niyang mag-Bar chairman gayung natutulog ang mga kaso niya sa en banc and in his division (He had the gall to accept the chairmanship when he knows there are still cases sleeping in the en banc and division levels),” the justice said.

Leonen appeared to be looking forward to the assignment, having posted this tweet: “Bar Tip: study with all seriousness. There is no better time than now. Don’t postpone. You’ll know when you are focused: you have a purpose for learning what it is that you are reading. #BestBarEver2020 — Marvic Leonen (@marvicleonen) Feb. 3, 2020.”

He is also trying to perk up interest in the exams by giving away T-shirts to his fellow justices with the stenciled message, “Bar Muna Bago Jowa.” The T-shirts will also be sold during the Bar examinations.

Strict quarantine protocols because of the pandemic forced the Supreme Court to cancel last year’s exams.

For this year’s tests scheduled in November, Leonen has proposed reforms that will conform to health restrictions.

He suggested that the exams be held not only in Manila, but in Cebu City as well.

He is also looking at the “possibility of conducting online but proctored exams to go with written exams.”

Leonen holds the record in the Supreme Court for the biggest backlog in en banc cases with 82.

The Times also learned that he is the backlog leader in the Third Division where he is the chairman.

As of March 31, 2020 Leonen had 899 pending cases in the division, based on the Statistics on Pending Judicial Cases signed by Division Clerk of Court Misael Domingo Battung 3rd, a copy of which was obtained by The Times.

That comes up to a total of 981 pending cases.

Leonen also has 199 Aging Cases and 700 Non-Aging Cases that have not been resolved.

He has been with the Supreme Court for eight years, having been appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Nov. 21, 2012.

On his watch, two cases have hardly moved for almost eight years, one case for seven years, two cases for six years, 14 cases for five years, one case for four years, six cases for three years and nine cases for two years.