Leonen asked to inhibit in DQ
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Associate Justice Marvic Leonen was asked yesterday to inhibit from the Supreme Court (SC) case involving the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe from the presidential elections.

Former Government Service Insurance System lawyer Estrella Elamparo sought Leonen’s inhibition in filing an urgent motion.

Elamparo argued Leonen has demonstrated his bias favoring Poe in the SC oral arguments last Tuesday.

Elamparo, one of the four petitioners in the disqualification cases against Poe before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), said Leonen has lost his impartiality in the case after issuing opinions sympathetic to the senator during the hearing.

“While the task of adjudication cannot be entirely emotion-free, Justice Leonen has shown his inability to keep his emotion and personal sentiment in check and indicated his judgment even before respondent could be heard,” read the motion.

Elamparo believes Leonen’s interpellation was “a passionate plea” to fellow magistrates to favor Poe.

“While it may be unavoidable for the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court to already have opinions on the issues at hand based on their own appreciation of the law, the case of the Honorable Justice Leonen is vastly different. Not only does he obviously have an opinion, his personal experience and the emotions that such experience stirs up obviously predispose him to rule in favor of petitioner,” Elamparo alleged.

“There can be no better example of a just and valid reason than the Honorable Justice’s frank admission that he too experienced the same or a similar ‘difficulty’ that petitioner is suffering from. That kind of very powerful empathy cannot but cloud his judgment,” she stressed.

During interpellation, Leonen said Poe should not be faulted for her being a foundling. He stressed that members of the high court should not be purely “legalists” in resolving the case as they should also be “justices” who are just or fair to a foundling.

Leonen, the youngest member of the high court, also related himself with the situation of Poe, admitting that he grew up without a father.

Leonen believes the SC should allow Poe to run for president and allow the people to decide.

In the hearing last Tuesday, only Leonen appeared sympathetic to Poe as the rest of the magistrates who interpellated Poe’s lawyer questioned her use of the US passport four times after acquiring dual citizenship in 2009 and failure to secure a Philippine Immigration requirement for permanent residency for returning citizens.   

Earlier, the camp of Poe sought the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Arturo Brion in the Comelec cases due to their earlier participation in the disqualification case against the senator in the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), which involved similar issue on citizenship eligibility. But the three justices rejected the plea for inhibition, which is supposed to be discretionary on their part.

The oral arguments will continue on Tuesday with the presentation of the positions of the Comelec, disqualification petitioners against Poe and the Office of the Solicitor General.

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