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The Manila Times - Law deans, profs divided over Leonen support

News & Interviews
18 December 2020

By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times

Law deans and professors in the Philippines are divided over whether to support Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen who is fighting an impeachment case in the House of Representatives.

The Manila Times obtained a draft of the Manifesto of Support for Leonen being circulated by Unibersidad de Manila Law Dean and Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) President Marisol Anenias.

In a phone interview with The Times, Anenias refused to name the specific author of the manifesto, saying it was a collective decision of the law deans and law professors to support Leonen.

But a source familiar with the issue told The Times Anenias himself is leading the move to gather sympathy for Leonen.

In several articles, The Times has exposed the magistrate’s huge backlog of cases, his failure to file Statements of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) and his attempt to renovate the cottage in the Supreme Court compound in Baguio City to the tune of P5 million.

Lawyer Larry Gadon filed the impeachment complaint, accusing Leonen of “culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.”

The camp of Anenias has texted individual law deans and professors persuading them to sign the manifesto.

One message forwarded by a law professor states: “The Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) is asking if we have professors who want to join the statement of support for Justice Leonen. No need to sign, if you are willing, your names will be included in the list.”

The law professors and deans contacted by The Times said many of them refused to sign the manifesto because of the glaring violations committed by Leonen.

Some said the impeachment complaint will be a wake-up call for Leonen to improve his work. There are about 300 law deans in the Philippines.

The one-page manifesto is titled “An Assault on Judicial Independence” and “Statement of Law Deans and Law Professors Against the December 7th Impeachment Complaint.”

It states: “We the undersigned law deans and law professors from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and the National Capital Region, express our collective support for Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic MVF Leonen. The impeachment complaint against him last 7 December 2020 with its unsubstantiated and groundless allegations should be dismissed for utter lack of merit.”

“Beyond the complaint unjustly levelled against a decent public servant, the impeachment is a palpable assault on judicial independence, in the attempt to remove a justice for standing as an obstacle to the ambitions of a privileged few. Mere disagreements or objections with the judicial opinions of a magistrate do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, much less malicious and baseless insinuations that cast aspersions as to his competence, probity, integrity and independence.”

It said Leonen “is a respected and distinguished colleague in the legal academe. He is a person of recognized competence and probity whose character and qualifications are beyond question. His stellar academic credentials, extensive records of service to the cause of the underprivileged and marginalized and experience in alternative legal advocacy litigation, commitment to the study and teaching of the law validates his place on the high bench.”

The manifesto appealed to Congress for “a fair, just and expeditious resolution of the impeachment complaint that will protect and preserve the independence of the judiciary. At stake in the forthcoming impeachment hearings is not only the fate of the respondent, but the future of our democratic institutions as well.”