The Manila Times - ‘Sleeping’ cases hound Leonen

News & Interviews
1 December 2020

By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times

Cases vs Meralco, Lucio Tan among those gathering dust

Many cases assigned to Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen have lain dormant, but he has not shown any signs of speeding up the pace.

A document obtained by The Manila Times showed that Leonen had been sitting on at least 37 “aging” cases or those simply awaiting decision. No other Supreme Court magistrate has that many sleeping cases.

Leonen has been in the high court for eight years, having been appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Nov. 21, 2012.

Article VIII, Section 15 of the Constitution and the Internal Rules of the high court require Supreme Court justices to decide on cases within 24 months from the filing of the last pleading, brief or memorandum.

He is also the leader when it comes to “non-aging “cases, chalking up 45. Non-aging cases are not yet up for decision and are waiting for other pleadings to be submitted.

In the overall backlog of cases, Leonen has 82.

Two of Leonen’s cases have been gathering dust for almost eight years. Fourteen cases have not moved forward for five years, one case for seven years, two cases for six years, one case for four years, six cases for three and nine cases for two.

Among the unresolved cases are those with far-reaching consequences. One case is that of the National Association of Electricity versus the Manila Electric Co. involving a power rate increase. The case has been in Leonen’s care for five years and three months.

The case of the Republic of the Philippines versus Lucio Tan, assigned to Leonen on Feb. 19, 2013, involves the forfeiture of the Tan’s alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Other dormant cases involved the allies of former president Aquino: the Confederation for Unity versus former Budget secretary Florencio Abad, Association of Small Accounting versus former Finance secretary Cesar Purisima, Integrated Bar of the Philippines versus Purisima, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan versus former Transportation and Commuication secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, and Rep. Edcel Lagman versus former executive secretary Paquito Ochoa.

The oldest unresolved case assigned to Leonen is that of Julie Parcon Song vwersus Lilia B. Parcon, which was assigned to him on Jan. 10, 2013.

The case of Gemma de la Cruz versus Meralco assigned to Leonen on May 2, 2014 is still pending.

Leonen’s poor record of punctuality has come under serious criticism, but Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta has given him a lot of slack, saying each justice has his own pace in handling cases.

Leonen’s seeming lack of urgency was once again brought up in the election protest of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Marcos, who lost the 2016 vice presidential race to Ma. Leonor Robredo, filed a case before the Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, on June 29, 2016.

Leonen became the ponente on Oct. 29, 2019 and the case has hardly moved since.

The Marcos camp fears that if no decision is reached before October 2021, the protest will come to naught. Certificates of Candidacy for the position of president and vice president for the May 2022 elections must be filed by that month.

Sources in the legal circle told The Times that the delay caused by Leonen could be a clear violation of the Constitution.

As such, it could be an impeachable offense, the sources said.