‘The framework agreement is bigger than a Marvic Leonen’

Purple S. Romero

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Chief government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen faces the Judicial and Bar Council as a nominee for Supreme Court justice

Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen

MANILA, Philippines – Chief peace panel negotiator Marvic Leonen, one of the 15 candidates vying for the post of Supreme Court associate justice, said on Thursday, October 25, that the government’s peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) won’t suffer in case he leaves the panel for the High Court.

“The framework agreement is bigger than a Marvic Leonen,” he told the Judicial and Bar Council, the body that screens and vets aspirants to the judiciary. Leonen was referring to the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, signed on October 15, which paves the way for a final political settlement with the MILF.

Leonen added that there are 5 people in the panel —  Miriam Coronel Ferrer, former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, Dr. Hamid Barra, Yasmin Busran Lao, and alternate member Mayor Ramon Piang, Sr. — who are all credible and capable of ensuring the agreement would be implemented.

He added that he was nominated to the post even before the agreement was signed.

Palace sources disclosed that Leonen is the frontrunner among the nominees.

Leonen’s position in the government panel was also raised as a reason that his independence as a jurist could be questioned. Leonen said though that President Benigno Aquino III does not consult him on other issues aside from those involving the peace process.

“The President respects personal advocacies and opinions and he has never told me to tone down on my opinions,” he added.

Leonen, who served as dean of the UP College of Law before being appointed as peace panel chief, was also asked about his scuttle with the SC.

Plagiarism issue

Leonen was admonished by the High Court in 2010 for being one of the 15 faculty members of UP Law who sought for the resignation of Justice Mariano del Castillo for allegedly plagiarizing parts of his decision in a case involving comfort women.

How would he work with a Court that admonished him? “Respect those who disagree with you. I was able to negotiate with the MILF.”

He said that justices will understand that criticizing the Court was part of his duty as dean of an academic institution.

“Justices can be as broad minded as to understand that I was performing a role of leader of academia,” he said.

He added that he has made his positions known on issues that have plagued the Court such as its flip-flopping on some decisions. He said that he wants the public to criticize the decisions that he may pen if he gets appointed. “I would wish that my decisions be criticized, at least I know they are read,” he said.

Leonen also faced Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who also taught in UP Law. Sereno asked him about how to ensure judicial stability in a “fast-changing world.”

Leonen said transparency and legibility in decisions are important factors. He said justices who change their vote or decisions should be made accountable.

He said he also agrees with Sereno’s policy on dignified silence in the Court, where justices are discouraged from discussing issues with the media. “The voice of justices should be loudest in their positions.” – Rappler.com

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