In a pathetic attempt to launder and deodorize the embarrassing delays in adjudicating cases both at the Supreme Court (SC) and at the Electoral Tribunals where SC justices sit, a former associate justice, one recently bypassed to sit as Chief Justice, published in the yellow media his opinion on the pending impeachment of SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
He titled his treatise without specifically naming Leonen, albeit the substance of his virtual defense referred to no one else but him.
Leonen’s former colleague likewise avoided specifically identifying the most critical election protest covering the disputed vice presidential position that has been festering for over four years and does not seem to be anywhere near resolution, despite the complaint’s threefold sought-after actions, one of which was summarily dismissed at the very onset, and the third, hopelessly plodding with only a year to go before the clock runs out and political technicalities kick in to render any decision moot.
The attempt to deodorize covered two specific areas that envelop Leonen’s pathetically sluggish performance, while a third concerned Leonen’s failure to publicly reveal his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) — a requisite disclosure document whose comparative analysis is integral to our anti-corruption advocacies.
The opinion piece centered on three debatable arguments.
The first is that Section 15(1), Article VII of the Constitution, which states cases must be resolved within 24 months of submission, is simply persuasive, “merely directory and not mandatory.
” Never mind that the Constitution uses the term “must.” In 2019, the SC interpreted Article VII and declared that the rule should not be “interpreted as an inflexible rule.” Well, isn’t that convenient?
He likewise declared that to strictly adhere to the 24-month rule would result in impeaching over a majority of the SC. That delivers the message that to delay cases is acceptable because others are doing it and to hold everyone accountable results in a half-empty court.
His second argument is that no law prescribes a period for resolving electoral cases.
True, but this seems like a product of poor lawmaking.
When a requisite period is required for non-electoral disputes, yet one is absent for electoral tribunals, this ignores the reality that elective terms have at most six years before a case turns moot. It effectively promotes electoral fraud and serious injustices and inequity, all thwarting representative democracy.
Finally, he defends Leonen’s non-submission of his SALN by stating that the prescriptive period has lapsed.
That might protect Leonen from impeachment, but not from the responsibility to be accountable enough to sit in judgement of others. It totally misses the point of the SALN where this compels officials to periodically disclose that throughout their government service there was no unexplained asset indicative of impropriety.
It is especially important where a SALN comparative analysis covers Leonen’s time as an academician, to being a state negotiator, to his SC appointment.
Plutarch’s above-suspicion requisite demands Leonen was clean all throughout.
All three fail at laundering away festering doubt.
Simply deodorizing is inadequate.
While he might not be impeached, to calm a deeply doubting public, there remains the need to ensure Leonen is squeaky clean and is not simply running out the clock on specific landmark cases.