Ex-justices Carpio, Morales reject Estelito Mendoza’s 'expertise' in anti-terror law petitions

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 10 2020 09:02 AM

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/Bullit Marquez, AP Photo

Other petitioners oppose SolGen Calida’s move to cancel oral arguments

MANILA – Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza may have had a storied legal career but that’s not enough for former Supreme Court justices and other legal luminaries to qualify him as an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” in the petitions challenging the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales, along with other legal experts from the University of the Philippines College of Law who are petitioners in the case, opposed early this week Mendoza’s offer of his “expertise”, saying he is not an “impartial” attorney and he lacked the relevant experience.

An amicus curiae is an experienced and impartial attorney whose opinion is sought by the Supreme Court to settle certain issues.

In August this year, Mendoza volunteered his services to the Supreme Court invoking his almost 7 decades in legal practice, his membership in the UP Law faculty from 1954 to 1974 and his stint as Solicitor General during martial law from 1972 to 1986. 

As SolGen, he defended the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ proclamations and security officials from cases questioning the legality of arrests and detention at that time. 

But for Carpio’s group, these experiences are irrelevant because they took place during martial law under a different legal regime and Mendoza also had no experience dealing with the Anti-Terrorism Act nor its predecessor, the Human Security Act of 2007.

Instead, the group listed the names of key petitioners which include Constitution framers, current and former lawmakers, law professors and legal experts, and invoked the current Solicitor General Jose Calida’s spotless winning record to show Mendoza’s participation in the case is not necessary. 

“With what is already available, Atty. Mendoza (who at best, possesses tangential experience on the matter at hand, and merely banks on the graciousness that this Honorable Court will accommodate his unsolicited Petition for Leave), does not, with respect, add value to the instant proceedings,” the filing said.

The Carpio group also cast doubt on Mendoza’s capacity to be fair, noting that he had always served in favor of the government and has made known his position that the anti-terror law petitions should be dismissed due to the supposed lack of an actual case to be resolved. 

“By seeking the outright dismissal of the constitutional challenges to the ATA, he cannot act as an impartial friend of the Honorable Court, as his interests are now wed with those of the Respondents. Atty. Mendoza is approaching, not as a ‘friend of the court,’ but as a ‘friend of the Respondents,’” they said.

They reminded Mendoza that the Supreme Court has never allowed an amicus curiae to volunteer, much more share an unsolicited comment on a pending case. They chided him for supposedly citing outdated legal bases.

“It was impolite, if not presumptuous, for Atty. Mendoza to pre-empt the Honorable Court’s prerogative in defining the issues in the instant proceedings, and based on his own view of what the issues are, exhorting the Honorable Court to dismiss the case without hearing the merits,” they said.

Joining the Carpio groups’ opposition to Mendoza’s move is another set of Anti-Terror law petitioners led by Senators Francis Pangilinan and Leila de Lima, lawmakers, journalists and constitutional law framers. 

Like the Carpio group, they accused Mendoza of hiding a petition for intervention in the guise of an amicus curiae application. 

And because the requirements for a petition for intervention was not met, they urged the Supreme Court to expunge from the records of the case Mendoza’s filing.

OPPOSITION TO SOLGEN’S MOVE TO CANCEL ORAL ARGUMENTS

In a separate filing, the same petitioners represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group opposed the move of SolGen Calida to have the oral arguments on the anti-terror law petitions cancelled.

Calida had said holding oral arguments involving at least 300 individual petitioners is both “unsafe and impractical” as it would constitute mass gathering, in violation of quarantine protocols.

He also said holding oral arguments online will still require at least 25 of his lawyers and staff to gather in a small room.

But petitioners said holding oral arguments is due process in its “distilled” form and will best serve pubic interest.

Bayan Muna also objected to Calida’s motion saying the Court can impose minimum health standards like wearing face masks and temperature checks or hold the oral arguments via teleconference or videoconference to address the threat of the coronavirus.

The group insisted the oral arguments are essential for complete and transparent deliberations on the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Thirty-one groups of petitioners have filed petitions challenging the new measure.

The Supreme Court had earlier said it will hold oral arguments on the third week of September at the earliest.