President Appoints Chief Peace Negotiator As New Associate Justice
Manila: In line with his vision to attain an independent and reformist judiciary, President Benigno S. Aquino III has appointed chief government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen as new Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Leonen immediately took his oath before the President in Malacañang, filling the seat vacated by now Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. At 49, the former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law becomes the youngest member of the Supreme Court.
"President Aquino views his appointment as a contribution to his vision of an empowered, independent, and reformist Judiciary," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a Palace press conference.
"The appointment of Dean Leonen is one that the President views as a lasting legacy of his administration, consistent with his desire of a Judiciary imbued with the highest standards of independence, probity and integrity," he added.
Lacierda said the President chose Leonen after receiving the short list of candidates recommended by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) and interviewing each nominees.
Leonen was the last nominee screened by the President last Wednesday afternoon. The six other candidates were interviewed before Aquino went to Cambodia last weekend.
Lacierda, however, denied that Leonen was a "shoo-in" to become the SC Associate Justice, saying the President scrutinized all nominees before making the appointment. Leonen was asked to return to the Palace when Aquino reached the decision.
Lacierda also credited Leonen for making significant contributions in attaining a just and lasting peace in Mindanao while keeping with the spirit and letter of the Constitution.
"A revitalized Supreme Court, with the renewed confidence and public trust of our people, is essential to the fulfillment of the President's Social Contract with the Filipino People: a truly impartial judicial system that delivers equal justice to rich or poor," he added.
With the appointment of Leonen, Lacierda said a new chairman of the government panel negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be appointed soon. Leonen's replacement will be chosen from the peace panel, he added.
Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles assured that the appointment of Leonen will not affect the peace talks with the MILF.
"This development will not affect the peace process in any negative way. GPH negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is on track and moving towards the completion of the Comprehensive Agreement by the end of the year," Deles said in a statement.
"The Supreme Court gains a member with a deep understanding of the Constitution and our nation's historic journey to peace. This is indeed a major gain in our continuing journey for peace and justice," Deles said.
Lawmakers also hailed the appointment of Leonen, with Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. saying "he will no doubt bring dynamism and contribute to current efforts towards judicial reform."
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said Leonen "will bring a wealth of academic experience to the high tribunal."
Leonen crafted the Framework Agreement between the government and the MILF, having been appointed head of the government peace panel in 2010.
He was former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law.
He graduated cum laude from the UP School of Economics in 1983 and obtained his law decree, also from UP, in 1987. He became a lawyer in 1988.
A human rights advocate and an environmentalist, Leonen is the co-founder of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc. -Kasama sa Kalikasan, a group devoted to giving legal services to members of the indigenous communities. (With reports from Francis T. Wakefield, Reynaldo Panaligan and Charissa M. Luci)--Courtesy of Manila Bulletin