Saguisag: Don’t remove, but add, another Leonen in SC
The whole-page ad in the Inquirer last Tuesday, Jan. 26, of Compañero Eligio P. Mallari, advocated the removal of Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen. The latter’s cardinal sin: alleged nonsubmission of his statement of assets, liabilities, net worth, etc. (SALN). The penalty in Republic Act No. 6713 is either a fine of P5,000 and/or a prison term of five years, clearly probationable, a measure how the legislature perceived the gravity of the offense. Not mortal but venial, if that. Not impeachable, from where I sit.If it was used against Chief Justice Rene Corona, one justification was that his elevation on May 17, 2010 was clearly meant to thwart his successor when the aim should be to smoothen the transition and not spoil it with midnight appointments.
Creative tension is useful, if that be the case with Marvic. Judge Learned Hand wrote (in an anti-trust case): “Many people believe that possession of unchallenged economic power deadens initiative, discourages thrift and depresses energy; that rivalry is a stimulant to industrial progress [and] the spur of constant stress is necessary to counteract an inevitable disposition to let well enough alone…” The context was economics, but prudential considerations prevailed on the nonreturn to the Supreme Court of Chief Justice Manuel V. Moran in 1951 after Elpidio Quirino had lost to Ramon Magsaysay. No appointment by a lame duck.
Section 7 of RA 3019 requires a public servant to report income earned, expenses incurred, and taxes paid the previous year. I have challenged my students to produce a copy of a SAL (statement of assets and liabilities, SAL, not SALN), which I would eat. I have not had any indigestion on that account.
I had meant in the law to make the Commission on Civil Service (CSC) play a—or the—key role in implementing the law. The CSC came out with one form combining Sec. 8 of RA 6713 and Sec. 7 of RA 3019 on the subject statements. The House of Representatives howled. Burned, the CSC retreated and has ignored Sec. 12 of the law requiring it (not the arguably usurping Ombudsman) to promulgate rules and regulations and administer the law. Bureaucracy is a game of power; one agency gives up a power and another may come in.
The sortie of Compañero Mallari may yet clarify whether noncompliance with Sec. 7 of RA 3019 and Sec. 8 of of RA 6713 is impeachable. Is there equivalence or proportionality? And equal protection in that a law is not administered with an evil eye and unequal hand? Should all justices disclose their SAL/SALNs?
With noncompliance being so massive, may I revive my suggestion that an amnesty be worked out with a warning that thereafter noncompliance will be more severely dealt with in this nation of scofflaws.
Don’t remove, but add another Leonen or two, in the Supreme Court, in the highest national interests.
Rene A.V. Saguisag, Palanan, Makati City
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