Leonen violated SC internal rules, says Bersamin
SUPREME Court Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin said colleague Associate Justice Marvic Leonen violated the high court’s Internal Rules when he made public the deliberations of the court regarding the grant of bail to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
“I humbly submit that Justice Leonen violated Section 2, Rule 10 of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court which treats court deliberations as confidential and not to be disclosed to outside parties,” Bersamin said in his five-page rejoinder.
Section 2 of the high court’s Internal Rules provides that “court sessions are executive in character with only the Members of the Court present. Court deliberations are confidential and shall not be disclosed to outside parties, except as may be provided herein or as authorized by the Court.”
Leonen, in a strongly worded dissenting opinion, revealed that there was a surprising revision of the draft decision penned by Bersamin.
He said the draft decision that the high court voted upon was different from the decision signed by the justices.
“The copy offered for signature was substantially the Aug. 14, 2015, circulated version granting bail on humanitarian grounds,” Leonen said.
But Bersamin said the comments of Justice Leonen “were not the truth, but were the result of a self-righteous mindset.”
Bersamin said he had the impression that Leonen is accusing him, based on his dissent, of misleading their colleagues while the majority who concurred in the decision signed the ruling without knowing the contents.
Bersamin said his draft decision containing two grounds for granting bail including strength of evidence and advance age, Enrile’s medical condition was resubmitted to the high court for deliberation on March 24, April 21, June 23, July 21, Aug. 4 and Aug. 11.
During the Aug 11 deliberation, Bersamin said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno announced that the case will be taken up again on Aug. 18.
“I reminded that this case had already been pending for some time, and that it should be voted upon at the next en banc session. The en banc assented,” Bersamin said.
On Aug. 18, Bersamin said he submitted a pruned-down version of his draft where he passed on to the Sandiganbayan to rule on the strength of evidence and advance age.
“The portion I excised from the initial draft were those pertaining to the mitigating circumstances which I relegated for the determination of the trial court. Otherwise, the pruned-down version included nothing new,” Bersamin said adding that it was Leonen himself, during the high court’s summer session in Baguio who suggested to limit his decision on Enrile’s bail to humanitarian reason.
“Hoping that the Court could be unanimous, I said then that I would give his suggestion a serious consideration,” Bersamin said.
Bersamin said last Aug. 18, Leonen called the court’s attention on his letter containing several questions.
“He asked for time to circulate a draft. I saw this as a move to delay the vote. It was in exasperation more than anything else that I said that I would revert to the original version and that the case should now be put to a vote. Much discussion followed. Then, the vote was taken,” Bersamin said.
He pointed that there was no demand from the other justices to see his original draft. Even those who voted against, including Leonen, Bersamin said none demanded to see his original draft.
Bersamin added that Leonen should also look at his side because two justices signed in favor of his dissenting opinion even before he completed writing it.
“If Justice Leonen should really insist that I was guilty of any irregularity in obtaining signatures on my final version without the rest of the Majority seeing first that version, he should first look at his side because two of them signed in favor of his dissenting opinion days before the opinion he wrote for them was completed. But I do not question the wisdom of their having done so out of my sincere and genuine respect for Minority,” Bersamin said.
This is not the first time that an issue on violation of the high court’s internal rules became an issue.
In 2012, then Associate Justice Roberto Abad and Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco said then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, breached the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court (IRSC), particularly the “confidentiality of court sessions” when she narrated in her dissenting opinion the en banc’s deliberation on Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s hold departure order.
READ: Row over testimony of Supreme Court justice looms
The high court will tackle Bersamin’s letter and rejoinder in next week’s en banc session.
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