Leonen has no business questioning SC verdict, says Bersamin

Leonen has no business questioning SC verdict, says Bersamin
The Supreme Court's verdict on Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is now the subject of a complaint by one justice against another

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin continued on Tuesday, August 25, his attack against the Tribunal’s youngest member, accusing Justice Marvic Leonen of being “self-righteous” and “lacking respect” for the majority decision that temporarily freed Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

In his 5-page rejoinder submitted to the SC en banc and leaked to the media, Bersamin said that Leonen violated the Court’s Internal Rules when he disclosed the “confidential” deliberation of the justices on Enrile’s plea.

The rejoinder came a day after Bersamin filed a complaint against Leonen before the Supreme Court.

A top lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Rappler that Bersamin’s leaked letters to the Court also violate the Tribunal’s confidentiality rule.

In his dissenting opinion posted on the Court website on August 19, a day after the Court allowed Enrile to post bail for the plunder charges he’s facing, Leonen narrated how the justices ended up voting on a draft decision different from what had been the subject of their previous deliberations. 

Leonen said that what the justices had voted on at 11 am of August 18 focused on bail as a matter of right based on judicial notice and the existence of mitigating circumstances.

But when the Court was hearing oral arguments on the Torre de Manila case after the session, Bersamin passed around a “final copy of the majority opinion which was not the version voted upon during the morning’s deliberation.” 

What Bersamin circulated was the version granting bail on humanitarian grounds, according to Leonen.

Bersamin’s version

Bersamin sought to clarify this in his rejoinder to the Court on Tuesday.

“In the initial draft, I already discussed two grounds for granting bail to the petitioner, namely: the effect of the appreciating two mitigating circumstances on the imposable penalty; and the petitioner’s medical condition. This draft with minor revisions for style and syntax was resubmitted for deliberation in the agendas of March 24, 2015; April 21, 2015; June 23, 2015; July 21, 2015; August 4, 2015; and August 11, 2015,” he explained.

Bersamin said that for the August 18 en banc session, he submitted a scaled down version of the draft, adding that the portion he removed from the original draft were those about the mitigating circumstances. “I relegated it (mitigating circumstances) for the determination of the trial court. Otherwise, the pruned down version included nothing new,” he said.

Bersamin told the Court: ”Leonen thereby accused me of misleading my colleagues in the Majority by passing around for their signatures during the oral arguments on the Torre de Manila case a version of my ponencia different from what had been voted on. My second impression was that Justice Leonen was blaming my colleagues in the Majority for affixing their signatures on the final version of the ponencia despite not having known the contents.”

By doing this, Leonen violated Section 2, Rule 10 of the Internal Rules of Court on matters of confidential deliberations, according to Bersamin.

“At this point, I wish to state that Justice Leonen overstepped the bounds of respect for the Majority, once the vote was taken, he had absolutely no business implying anything against how the Majority had voted, or how their consensus had been reached,” he added.

The 7 other magistrates who voted in favor of Enrile’s plea are Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Mendoza and Jose Perez.

Don’t fret

“He was a member of the minority. He should have stayed there. He should have confined himself to expressing his losing views. He should not fret and assail the process that he could not control from his side of the vote,” Bersamin stressed in bold and capital letters in his rejoinder.

Aside from Leonen, those who dissented from the majority ruling are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Bersamin also challenged Leonen to “look at his own backyard” in the minority before making any accusations, saying that Sereno and Carpio signed his dissenting opinion days before he completed writing it.

“I reiterate that Justice Leonen should mind only the vote of the Minority, and should respect those in the Majority,” Bersamin added.

The High Court’s verdict triggered negative reactions online.

The arrest of the 91-year-old Enrile, after all, was hailed as a major anti-corruption step in the wake of the pork barrel scam, the biggest corruption scandal to hit the Philippines in recent years. Two other senators allegedly involved in the scam, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr, are detained at Camp Crame.

Leonen also said that the decision tempts one to conclude that “the decision is the result of obvious political accommodation rather than a judicious consideration of the facts and the law.” – Rappler.com

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