Justice Leonen on rule of law

>> Thursday, December 15, 2016

Alfred P. Dizon

BAGUIO CITY – Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen is one of the few “Baguio boys” we can truly say whose personal and professional life has not been tarnished unlike others who have fallen to the lure of quick and ill-gotten money among other things being in government breeds.
He is also one of the few who have lived by principles founded on justice. The “Baguio boy” that he is with his independent mindedness, he is now calling on the Duterte administration to respect the rule of law in its fight against criminality.
In posts on his Twitter account, Leonen said impunity in the conduct of the war on illegal drugs has left a trail of abuses by law enforcers and vigilante groups.
“Impunity undermines the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law protects those who are weak and poor from the abuses of those who have power,” read the justice’s Twitter post.
“It may be true that no system is perfect. But, this is no justification to contribute to its imperfection,” he said in another post.
He has also called for strict adherence to the rule of law in his concurring opinion on the SC ruling clearing three judges publicly tagged by President Duterte as protectors of the illegal drug trade.
“If we truly desire a society that works to rid itself from the menace of illegal drugs and corruption, we should strengthen the institutions that effect the rule of law. Support should be given to those who struggle to do what is right,” he said.
Leonen has called Duterte’s public announcement about the judges as premature as “it was not fully supported by evidence that were professionally validated and which could be presented in a court of law.”
“All it achieved was to shame the judges and others similarly situated,” he said, adding that it also “dangerously contributes to the President’s public misperception that courts of law are incompetent.”
“The truth is that, in these cases, evidence is not available from the law enforcers, who could have presented opportunities for this court to clean its ranks,” he added.
Leonen has been actively posting on Twitter his positions on pressing political issues, many of which are perceived to be critical of the Duterte administration.
At the height of the protest rally against the SC order allowing the burial of the late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Leonen also posted on Twitter a statement on the need for the people to take a stand when freedom is under threat.
“Freedom has never been won with silence in the face of abuse nor through unprincipled compromises. Meaningful freedoms are always earned,” read his Twitter post.
Leonen, an appointee of former president Benigno Aquino III, was among the five SC justices who dissented from the majority ruling and voted against the Marcos interment at the Libingan.
The SC cleared last week three judges publicly tagged by President Duterte as protectors of the illegal drug trade.
In a resolution, the high court said that based on evidence presented by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), it found no prima facie case against Judges Exequil Dagala of the Dapa-Socorro municipal circuit trial court in Surigao, Adriano Savillo of the Iloilo City regional trial court and Domingo Casiple of the Kalibo RTC in Aklan.
The SC also held that the premature disclosure of the names of the judges put their lives in danger and damaged their reputation.
While the SC cleared the three judges, it has deferred ruling on the case of another judge – Antonio Reyes of the Baguio City RTC – as the retired magistrate conducting the probe is still waiting for a reply from the Philippine National Police and PDEA on his query about the judge.
With its resolution of the issue, the SC called on judges’ organizations “to take up issues that have surfaced in the investigation in order to further enable the rule of law as far as judges conduct is concerned – so as to protect the lives and reputation of the judges and court personnel even as the Court disciplines its own ranks.”
The SC cited a fact-finding investigation conducted by retired associate justice Roberto Abad on the matter.
“Acting on his report, the Court found that no prima facie case has been established against the said judges. It was constrained to terminate the investigation considering that despite repeated pleas, the PDEA insisted that no witness is willing to come forward and that it has exhausted the documentary evidence it can submit,” the high court said.
The SC said despite the lack of response from authorities, Abad took extraordinary steps to obtain evidence “because of the grave public import of the President’s comment.”
The retired magistrate has managed to acquire financial and commercial documents about the judges and found no evidence to confirm or corroborate allegations against the three judges.

“The Court also noted that the judges had been placed in danger and that their reputations had been damaged by the premature announcement of their alleged involvement in the drug trade which the investigation had revealed as unwarranted,” it said. 


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