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Petitioner asks Leonen to inhibit from Poe cases

Justice Marvic Leonen. INQUIRER/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Justice Marvic Leonen. INQUIRER PHOTO

One of the lawyers seeking Sen. Grace Poe’s disqualification from the presidential race has asked a Supreme Court magistrate to inhibit himself from her appeal, citing his “shared experience” with the candidate having also grown up fatherless.

In a petition filed at the Supreme Court yesterday, Estrella Elamparo, the former Government Service Insurance System chief legal counsel, asked Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to recuse himself from Poe’s suit against the Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolutions that voided her candidacy, citing the magistrate’s bias following his statements during oral arguments on Tuesday.

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 ‘Glaring partiality’

In an eight-page petition, Elamparo cited Leonen’s interpellation of Poe’s lawyer Alex Poblador, where he disclosed that he “grew up without a father,” to some degree relating with the Senator’s upbringing as a foundling.

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“With much reluctance and regret, the undersigned is compelled to now seek the voluntary inhibition of Associate Justice Mario Victor F. Leonen on account of prejudgment and glaring partiality,” said Elamparo.

“This ‘shared’ experience with petitioner and the overflowing expression of empathy that came with his very candid disclosure blatantly show that the Honorable Justice has lost his impartiality and is now determined to champion the cause of petitioner,” Elamparo said.

She described Leonen’s interpellation as an “emotional speech,” saying “what happened was not an interpellation but a passionate plea to end petitioner’s (Poe) “difficulty.”

Leonen is expected to continue his interpellation on Tuesday, when oral arguments on Poe’s case against the Comelec continue.

Elamparo had won her disqualification bid against Poe at the Comelec’s Second Division, among two cases later upheld by the poll body’s en banc that prompted the candidate to seek relief from the Supreme Court.

 ‘Devil’s advocate’

When sought for comment on the petition of Elamparo, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said Supreme Court justices should not be judged based on the questions they ask parties during oral arguments on a case.

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Pimentel, a lawyer and the chair of the Senate justice committee, said that in their line of questioning, magistrates could play devil’s advocate to test the theory of the parties.

“They could disguise their actual position,” Pimentel said in a phone interview, adding that this was actually a good strategy.

And even if they are not doing so, the justices are free to adopt the line of questioning they want, he said.

“Allow the justices freedom of speech, freedom to air their general impression of the case,” he said.

In the end, justices would take sides in a case because they would vote on it, he said.

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TAGS: Comelec, disqualification case, Elections 2016, Estrella Elamparo, Grace Poe, Leonen, Marvic Leonen, Supreme Court
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