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Who's afraid of Justice Marvic Leonen?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - November 25, 2020 - 12:00am

The student editor of San Beda College Alabang Law Journal asked me to write a legal commentary and I have chosen to publish my manuscript on the excellent nuggets of legal wisdom, emanating from the pen of the second youngest lawyer ever to be appointed as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Mario Victor F Leonen, former Dean of the UP College of Law, peace negotiator, legal and judicial activist and a great dissenter. For appointing this one honest, brilliant and daring jurist, I am willing to forgive PNoy for all his blunders and ineptitude.

Justice Leonen was a student and faculty activist and a defender of the victim of police atrocities. He never had a corporate practice and has chosen to be the defender of the unwashed, outcasts of society, the poor farmers who are being ejected from their farm lands, urban poor settlers whose shanties are being demolished to give way to giant malls and casinos, golf courses and resort complexes. He is also a defender of the OFWs who are exploited, insulted, and oppressed in dirty, difficult, dangerous and degrading work abroad. Having been bred in UP Diliman, whose atmosphere of freedom and passion for democracy seem to be another world outside of the Philippines. Marvic Leonen is a great dissenter who is brave enough to swim against the current, to question the powers-that-be and stand bold and unafraid in the midst of too much greed and covetousness.

And why is Bongbong Marcos asking the Supreme Court to inhibit Leonen from the election protest that he filed against VP Leni Robredo? And why did Solicitor General Jose Calida also move for Leonen's inhibition? Are they afraid of this small guy from Baguio, who speaks with a squeaking voice but asks very penetrating legal questions? Twelve of the fifteen justices of the Supreme Court are appointees of Manong Digong. Only Senior Justice Estela Perlas-Benabe, Alfred Benjamin Caguioa and Leonen were appointees of President Noynoy Aquino? Why are they afraid of one valiant justice? Bernabe is not likely to rock the boat. She might be considered to be the next Chief Justice after CJ Dado Peralta retires before Manong Digong leaves Malacañan. Caguioa is harmless as a lamb. Only Leonen is a lion.

Those who come to court unprepared should indeed be afraid of Marvic Leonen. He is the great interrogator and the bane of lawyers who do not master their facts nor memorize their legal basis and jurisprudence. In UP, students feared him for his very difficult interrogations. In the Supreme Court, petitioners for certiorari, mandamus, injunctions and restraining orders are often exposed and embarrassed for not mastering their arguments before having dared to face the Supreme Court en banc. Leonen is the resurrection of the great Chief Justices Enrique Fernando and Claudio Teehankee, Roberto Concepcion and Andres Narvasa. He is a master of American jurisprudence insofar as they influence our political and constitutional laws.

Leonen was the one who delivered that stirring speech to the new lawyers who passed the 2019 Bar exams, in their virtual oath-taking ceremonies. He forewarned the new members of the bar that if they would choose what is right, what is just and what is proper, they should prepare themselves to be wounded and scarred in a legal world dominated by greed and avarice, He decried the fact that only few lawyers would choose to handle the cases of the illegally dismissed workers, the victims of police brutality, the family of those who were summarily executed. Most lawyers would prefer to be in big law firms to defend the causes of the rich and the powerful, the foreign interests and the billionaire taipans, tycoons and magnates. Leonen is the street lawyer, the one who will pick up the wounded and the dead.

If we are disillusioned by corrupt judges and fiscals, dishonest lawyers and greedy members of the bar, let us just remember that there is one Marvic Leonen standing for what is true, what just and what is right. This one is the lonely and brave icon of justice, who holds a flickering candle, amid a world of gloom, doom and storms. If only for him, we should not be afraid.

LAWYER
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