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Bersamin-Leonen dispute belies court ‘collegiality’

/ 12:04 AM September 03, 2015

The sideshow between Supreme Court Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin and Marvic Leonen is an eye-opener. The two, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision granting bail to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, have been at each other’s throats!

Bersamin wrote the majority decision (concurred in by seven justices); Leonen, on the other hand, wrote the minority opinion (concurred in by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and two others) that fulminated against the ruling.

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In the dissenting opinion, Leonen made public the covert maneuvers of Bersamin to railroad a ruling in favor of Enrile. Reacting to the accusation, Bersamin protested that Leonen broke protocol by disclosing “confidential matters” (“Bersamin: As if Leonen broke SC vow of silence,” Front Page, 8/26/15). The Inquirer accounts of their squabble gave the people a front-seat view of how “honorable justices” dispense justice in this country!

It brings to mind the behind-the-scenes frantic maneuvers of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona to show gratitude by expediting the departure of former President Gloria Arroyo in an attempt to evade prosecution for a non-bailable offense. Then newly Aquino-appointed Associate Justice Sereno got wind of it and was set to testify about it at the Senate impeachment trial. The Arroyo-appointed justices, comprising majority membership of the Supreme Court, cried foul, saying Sereno violated the “confidentiality” of the high court’s “deliberations”! In other words, conspiracies on “Mount Olympus” along Padre Faura are sacred and should be kept inviolate.

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But back to Enrile’s case: What’s odd is, Bersamin seems to be only speaking for himself when, for all intents and purposes, his decision reflected the minds of the seven other justices who signed it. We hear no other justice backing him up!

The same is true with Leonen whose dissent was also signed by three other justices. No one else is backing him up either. (Chief Justice Sereno, in a media briefing, expressed her unqualified concurrence with Leonen’s dissent [“Sereno: Wait, Enrile bail ruling not final,” News, 8/28]—Ed.)

Isn’t it basic logic that those who concur in a decision are accountable for it as the ponente? By the same measure, if Leonen violated the Supreme Court’s “omerta,” so did Chief Justice Sereno and the two others who signed his dissent!

However, the way things appear, the fight is only between Bersamin and Leonen; the others are sitting it out, just watching who blinks first. This scenario gives the lie to the “collegiality” in the Supreme Court’s decision-making; it shows that the much-touted collegiality of the Court is a charade. Concurring justices don’t really think seriously about the writer’s predilections: Decision mo yan, panindigan mo! No one made this more evident than Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, who was once left out to dry for “plagiarism” in a decision he penned which was also concurred in by the other justices! No wonder our “jurisprudence” is such a mess!

—ROMANO MORANO MONTENEGRO, [email protected]

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TAGS: Bail, Juan Ponce Enrile, Lucas Bersamin, ma. Lourdes sereno, Marvic Leonen, plunder, Supreme Court
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