Leonen refutes Manila Times report he sought P5-M repair for Baguio cottage

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2020 04:44 PM

Courtesy of Supreme Court

MANILA - Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on Thursday refuted allegations published in The Manila Times that he allegedly requested for P5 million worth of repairs to a cottage assigned to him in Baguio City, where the high court holds summer sessions.

“My chambers never endorsed the P5-million proposal to renovate Cottage G in Baguio City,” Leonen said in a statement issued through the SC Public Information Office. 

The Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas, in the first of a 2-part report published Thursday, alleged that Leonen’s own judicial staff, Jeanne Carla Ferrer-Becina, wrote to Deputy Clerk of Court Ma. Carina Cunanan, chief of the high court’s administrative services, on July 17 to request for the renovation amounting to P4.97 million.

Canlas showed in his report the letter of Cunanan to SC justices mentioning the letter from Ferrer-Becina, but did not show the letter request itself.

He also cited insiders claiming the P5-million renovation is “too much” and the cottage, previously occupied by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, was supposedly “habitable.”

In his statement, Leonen said it was not his office that sought the renovation.

“The proposal was drafted by the Supreme Court’s Maintenance Division and, without having gone through my office, was placed in the Court En Banc’s agenda. Upon learning of this, I immediately wrote a letter requesting that the matter be withdrawn, and it was promptly deleted,” he said.

Leonen did not comment on the other parts of the report about the condition of the cottage.

But he urged the media to “adhere to the highest editorial standards and thoroughly verify the information they report to the public.”

“Misleading information, whether or not motivated by malice, harms the shaping of public opinion. It skews democracy in favor of malevolent elements,” he said.

“Freedom of the press is a guaranteed constitutional right, but that comes with the responsibility reposed in those who wield its power. Part of journalism’s ethics is also a duty to be decent,” he added.

“Disinformation is an insult to the values congealed in free speech. Disinformation, especially from media, should end.”

This is not the first time Canlas and The Manila Times published stories critical of Leonen. 

Canlas reported on a supposed 2017 “reflections” allegedly circulated by Leonen among fellow justices, which purportedly called for the dismissal of the election protest filed by defeated 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.

That 2-part story was heavily cited by Marcos and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in their bid to inhibit Leonen from the poll protest case.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), junked the motions to inhibit and required the OSG and Canlas to show cause why they should not be cited in contempt of court.

But the SC on Tuesday recalled the show cause order, quoting a letter by Leonen to fellow magistrates citing “forgiveness” of those who misunderstand.

Canlas went on to report that Leonen allegedly threatened fellow magistrates about sanctions for leaking documents. 

Leonen has not commented on this issue.

The Supreme Court had previously sternly warned Canlas for “hurling unfounded and baseless accusations” against SC magistrates when he claimed in a 2016 article that SC magistrates were allegedly offered a bribe of P50 million in connection with the citizenship case of Sen. Grace Poe when she was running for President. 

The high court upheld Poe’s qualifications.

Canlas also published exposés against ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, which led to him testifying before a House committee hearing on the impeachment complaint against Sereno.

That hearing was overtaken by the high court's quo warranto decision in May 2018, which ousted Sereno.

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