Leonen and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa were the only magistrates who dissented on the SC’s decision to dismiss the extremely urgent petition for mandamus filed by Dino de Leon against the President and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
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Dismissal of health petition vs Duterte questioned
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - July 10, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said there was something “highly irregular” about the outright dismissal of the petition compelling President Duterte to disclose the state of his health without first requiring Malacañang to give its comment.

Leonen and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa were the only magistrates who dissented on the SC’s decision to dismiss the extremely urgent petition for mandamus filed by Dino de Leon against the President and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

Both Leonen and Caguioa are appointees of former president Benigno Aquino III.

When the case was deliberated on and voted upon, 13-2, last May 8, the 15-member SC was complete. But three days later Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. retired.

SC insiders said the ponente of the resolution was Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting, a Duterte appointee.

At present the SC is composed of three appointees of Aquino, including Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and 10 justices appointed by Duterte.

While Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta joined the SC after he was appointed by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it was Duterte who appointed him to lead the high court last Oct. 23.

In his petition, De Leon questioned the health condition of the President at a time when the country is battling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and asked Malacañang to disclose the health records of the Chief Executive, who had been absent from several engagements and had publicly admitted his illnesses.

“In my view, the outright dismissal of the petition is highly irregular and constitutes a failure to carry out our responsibility to properly and accurately interpret Article VII, Section 12 of the Constitution in relation to the sovereign’s right to information on their government’s capability to represent them,” Leonen said.

Article VII, Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution states: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.”

“In times like these when the people must demand a higher standard from their public officials, it is during crises and national emergencies when this Court must be most vigilant in order to protect the rights of the public. Sadly, the majority has neglected this duty. To say the least, it is inexplicably and perilously obsequious,” he added.

“Empathically, I disagree” with the majority’s vote, Leonen said as he believed that the President and the Executive Secretary should have been required to comment on the petition and for the SC to give it due course to have a full exposition of the arguments from both parties.

The respondents or the Office of the Solicitor General should have been asked to give their comments on the novel petition. This was the first time that such petition was brought before the Court.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE
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