The Manila Times - Leonen has ‘weaponized’ SC’s powers

20 November 2020

By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen has weaponized the power of the high court by threatening to issue a show-cause order against the Office of the Solicitor General and The Manila Times, a knowledgeable court insider said.

The source told The Times that Leonen circulated last Tuesday his 30-page draft resolution among the members of the court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

The resolution is the basis of the show-cause order and ruling denying the motions of Solicitor General Jose Calida and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for Leonen to inhibit from the election protest Marcos filed with the tribunal.

Marcos lost the 2016 vice-presidency race to Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo. He filed a protest, claiming some election returns from Mindanao were fraudulent.

Leonen’s draft “per curiam” (by the court) resolution did not name the ponente of the case. But it was well-known inside the court that he had researched, studied and prepared the resolution, the insider said.

The magistrates did not vote on the draft, but Leonen wanted to make it appear that it was a collegial ruling, the source said.

The draft is stamped with the security watermark in baybayin or alibata, an ancient Filipino alphabet, that Leonen exclusively uses.

In the order, Calida and Times Chief of Reporters Jomar Canlas are directed to explain to the high court why they should not be cited in contempt, the source said.

The insider said Leonen was furious with Calida and The Times for leaking his Draft Reflections, which was circulated on July 10, 2017 among the Supreme Court justices and recommends the immediate dismissal of Marcos’ protest.

In the show-cause order, Leonen argued that the contents of the documents revealed by The Times were confidential and must not be disclosed to the public, the source said.
Calida was asked to explain why he quoted extensively from The Times story in his motion to inhibit.

“We note that unauthorized disclosure, sharing, publication, or use of confidential documents or any of its contents is classified as a grave offense. For aiding, abetting and encouraging the leakage of a sensitive and confidential information, Solicitor General Calida, representing the Office of the Solicitor General, is directed to show cause why he should not be cited in contempt,” the source quoted the draft.

Leonen added that Calida’s “unparalleled support” for Marcos, “could be construed as manifest partiality, a violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

Leonen said Calida “should exercise his discretion in a way that the people’s faith in the courts of justice is not impaired. Lamenting a decision he posits as unfavorable to a particular family and lackadaisically invoking People’s Tribune are not hallmarks of a high-ranking government official on whom public trust is reposed,” the source further quoted from the draft resolution.

A retired Supreme Court justice who refused to be identified said Leonen was weaponizing the powers of the court to put a “chilling effect” on the journalism profession.

The Times has reached out to Leonen for comment through the Public Information Office, but he has not replied.