'Nothing sinister' in SC decision on Sereno quo warranto: Leonen

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 05 2018 06:45 PM

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MANILA - There was "nothing sinister" about the interpretation of majority of Supreme Court justices that the Constitution allows for the removal of a sitting chief justice through a quo warranto petition, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said Thursday.

Leonen, who was one of the dissenters against the ruling that ousted Maria Lourdes Sereno, said the magistrates had "reasonable points," but he had a different "starting point."

The majority justices, citing the Constitution, said a chief justice "may be removed" and it that the Supreme Court has "jurisdiction over quo warranto in its original jurisdiction," Leonen said.

"My point was we don’t just read the text, you read the text in the context of the entire concept of separation of powers and judicial independence and what we are about to do from my point of view is dangerous," he told ANC's Headstart.

"The other side was also saying that it may be dangerous but it’s the rule of law and that is what the Constitution says as far as we can read it," he said.

"There is nothing sinister behind their interpretation. Their interpretation held some water, but I did not see it that," he added.

Leonen said the ouster plea against Sereno was a “legal abomination” that should have not been entertained by the Supreme Court.

He, Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Benjamin Caguiao, Antonio Carpio, Mariano Del Castillo, and Presbitero Velasco voted against the landmark decision.

'JUSTICES CAN'T AFFORD TO ATTRIBUTE ILL MOTIVES TO EACH OTHER'

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Leonen said one cannot work in the high court if he will "attribute false motives on your colleagues" because then he will "tend not to respect them."

"If you are in this position, you have to be very fair and try to just look at the behavior, just look at the arguments rather than attribute false motives," he said.

"Otherwise, you will tend not to respect and it will come out in your voice, in what you write. You may be frustrated in the result because you feel that you see it more clearly; but at the same time, that is with a lot of respect to the other justices—I cannot convince you, but I respect what you have written," he added.

He said justices "walk the same ground as any human being in this country" and are familiar with the current social, political, cultural situation.

"But we cannot walk the same earth at the same time…We have our different perspectives," he said.

When the Supreme Court decided on the quo warranto plea against Sereno, Leonen reached out to law students through micro-blogging site Twitter and told them to read the upcoming dissenting opinions.

"This is the court—it may not [be] infallible, but it is final. Once it is final, it can be majority opinion and a dissenting opinion…There are moments in our history that decisions are indeed overturned using the ideas that are put in dissents," he said.

He said he is active on the social media platform to let people know that being judges at the country's top court was not the only identity he and his colleagues have.

"When people do not see the SC as a human institution, especially those that are our detractors, it’s easy to demonize it and therefore subvert the legitimacy of the court," he said.