Justice Leonen tweets hope after notable dissent to Sereno’s ouster

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Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, in Phil. Star file photo.

It may have been years since Associate Justice Marvic Leonen last taught law, but as he dissents anew to the biggest case to be decided by the high court so far this year, the former law dean has a message for law students everywhere.

‘I dissent’

Leonen was one of the six magistrates who made a losing vote to dismiss the quo warranto proceeding against the now-deposed chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

In another statement, he gave a preview of his dissenting opinion in what would be known in jurisprudence as “Republic v. Sereno.”

“This Petition should have been dismissed outright and not given due course. It does not deserve space in judicial deliberation within our constitutional democratic space,” writes Leonen in his statement.

“Even if the Chief Justice has failed our expectations, quo warranto, as a process to oust an impeachable officer and a sitting member of the Supreme Court, is a legal abomination.”

“Even if the Chief Justice has failed our expectations, quo warranto, as a process to oust an impeachable officer and a sitting member of the Supreme Court, is a legal abomination. It creates a precedent that gravely diminishes judicial independence and threatens the ability of this Court to assert the fundamental rights of our people,” he added.

Leonen also listed down the constitutional provisions he believes were not read in the proper light.

What the 1987 Constitution says about ousting a chief justice

“The general grant of original jurisdiction for quo warranto actions to this Court in Article VIII, Section 5(1) should be read in the context of the provisions of Article XI, Sections 2 and 3 , as well as the principles of judicial independence and integrity inherent in a constitutional order implied in Article VIII, Sections 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 of the Constitution,” he emphasized.

Conformity with Supreme Court not a law school requirement

Days prior to the high court’s decision, various law school deans and instructors released a statement decrying the quo warranto proceedings on Sereno.

As expected, those on the list were also the first to call for protest.

Former Ateneo School of Government dean Antonio La Viña, who also lent his name, wrote a lengthy statement criticizing the decision.

Leonen was the dean of his alma mater, the University of the Philippines College of Law from 2008 until his appointment to the high court in 2012.

Leonen’s dissents

Leonen is known for his outspoken and often prosaic dissenting opinions.

Take for one his dissenting opinion on the decision finding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement constitutional, where he starts by quoting an expletive-laden line from the movie “Heneral Luna.”

Screencap from Lawphil.net

In his dissent in the dismissed petition against the burial Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, Leonen provided a fiery criticism of the late dictator.

“Ferdinand E. Marcos is no hero. He was not even an exemplary public officer. He is not worthy of emulation and inspiration by those who suffer poverty as a result of the opportunity lost during his administration, by those who continue to suffer the trauma of the violations to the human dignity of their persons and of their families,” wrote Leonen.

In the 2017 decision affirming the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Leonen once again affirmed what he perceived as a necessity to dissent.

“We should temper our fears with reason. Otherwise, we succumb to the effects of the weapons of terror. We should dissent—even resist—when offered the farce that martial law is necessary because it is only an exclamation point,” he wrote.