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Dissent not supreme

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - July 25, 2016 - 12:00am

All alumni of the Colegio del Santo Niño are being called to attend the annual homecoming, to be held this year on August 20 at the Casino Español de Cebu. All batches, from the 1950s onward, are asked to join. The celebration will start at 3 p.m. Tickets, priced at P500, are available at the school cashier's office as well as at the venue itself. More information can be had from Ms. Ruby at the alumni office through 09436149745.

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Marvic Leonen is among the four dissenters in the 11-4 Supreme Court decision finding insufficient evidence against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her plunder case at the Sandiganbayan, leading to its dismissal and freedom for the ailing former president from hospital detention. Fancying himself a beacon, perhaps the only beacon, of legal erudition and moral uprightness, Leonen likes to distinguish himself through dissent.

In dissent, Leonen gets favored play in a media that either does not know any better or is hopelessly biased toward him. Several had been the times, especially when involving controversial or high profile cases, that Leonen would play his dissenting card and almost always without fail, it is his dissenting opinion that gets splashed in media, sometimes even more prominently than the decision itself, or the dissenting opinions of other, more senior justices than he is.

But dissent is not exactly more learned than it sounds, and is far less correct. Anyone can dissent, although with the right attitude, dissent can sound more right than it is. Still, it derives attention only because it sticks out like a sore thumb. Dissent, in less celebrated means – is no different from the heckler at a formal awards night, or pissing at a party after gorging on the food at somebody else's expense.

In his dissent, Leonen said the decision was premature as what Arroyo raised in a petition for certiorari, or judicial review, was the Sandiganbayan denial of her demurrer to evidence and not an appeal of a verdict by the anti-graft court. But that is precisely why Arroyo went to the Supreme Court, because the Sandiganbayan refused to come to a verdict, denying her demurrer to evidence despite the lack of any indication that more evidence was forthcoming, thereby delaying the case.

What was the Sandiganbayan waiting for? The Ombudsman squandered pretty much of five years of Arroyo's life digging for evidence that was not there, hence her demurrer to evidence. Where in heaven did Leonen pluck the idea that it was premature to stop the mad waiting when it was clear the fishing expedition was simply just not catching any fish? Isn't it one of the favorite legal dictums that justice delayed is justice denied?

Leonen goes on to say that if indeed there was insufficiency of evidence in Arroyo's plunder case, a new case for malversation of public funds may still be filed against her. But isn't that a kind of forum shopping? Or in language easier to understand - isn't that like keeping in jail a murder suspect already declared innocent for no other reason than that there is the off chance a future case for a still uncommitted crime might eventually prosper.

And here is where Leonen provides the icing to his cake. According to him, Arroyo is a highly intelligent person who knew what she was doing. Leonen said Arroyo knew it was her duty to scrutinize if repeated requests for funds were regular and intended for legitimate purposes. I don't know why Leonen calls that a legal argument because far less bright people see it as putting the cart before the horse - and then blaming the road for going in the wrong direction.

Leonen cannot blame Arroyo for a non-criminal act even if that non-criminal act eventually resulted in a crime, unless it is proven that Arroyo participated or benefitted in the resulting crime. But the Ombudsman has utterly failed to present any evidence that Arroyo participated or benefitted by a single cent from the crime despite all the years it had to gather evidence and built up its case.

But here is where you can really puke. Leonen says what the majority of the justices who ruled in favor of freeing Arroyo may have seen as insufficient were not the evidence but the ability to correctly interpret such evidence with the wisdom provided by the intent of the law. Wow. What arrogance. Not only does Leonen think he is the only with the ability to correctly interpret evidence with the wisdom provided by the law's intent, he actually brags about it.

jerrytundag@yahoo.com.

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