Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen is irritated with the legal opinions on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) being expressed by Father Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda College of Law Graduate School.
In a letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the other 12 Associate Justices of the tribunal dated July 2, 2014, Leonen accused Aquino of misleading the public about his legal opinions on the DAP.
A copy of the one-page letter was obtained by the media.
Leonen said the priest’s opinions antedated the SC decision that last week declared the acceleration program unconstitutional.
“I share with you a news article quoting Fr. Ranhilio Aquino [San Beda College of Law, Philja, or Philippine Judicial Academy] misleading the public about a decision he has not read because it has not been promulgated yet,” his letter stated.
Aquino, a Roman Catholic priest and a son of retired Court of Appeals Justice Hilarion Aquino, had spoken about the DAP in radio programs.
According to a well-placed source in the High Court, Leonen is “insecure” with Aquino—also a columnist of Manila Standard—because the priest is tapped by media entities on legal matters despite him not being a lawyer.
Another Roman Catholic priest—lawyer Fr. Joaquin Bernas of the Ateneo Law School—is also being sought for his opinions on legal issues.
In an opinion on the DAP, Aquino said his “personal position is that it was neither necessary nor helpful for the Supreme Court to insert this prospectivity proviso because it only triggers suspicion that the decision was tailed to be kind to the incumbent President [Benigno Aquino 3rd] and to insulate him from criminal and administrative action as a result of his disbursement of DAP [funds].”
The “prospectivity” issue in the DAP has been feared to have been inserted in the SC decision to save President Aquino from criminal charges despite the acceleration program being ruled as unconstitutional.
The ruling said while the DAP is unconstitutional for its P140-billion spending, Aquino could be saved only from criminal charges if he hid under the cloth of “good faith.”
The President must also prove that the program funds have not been used to “bribe” senators and congressmen into impeaching then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Meanwhile, Leonen slammed the media for “leaking” the decision of the High Court on the DAP.
The Manila Times had broken the story on the SC declaring the DAP illegal.
In Leonen’s 29-page concurring opinion that did not name The Times, he cited a “final note” criticizing the media entities who get leaks from SC en banc deliberations.
Leonen’s final note is an obiter dictum (said in a passing) that has no connection at all with merits of the SC decision on the DAP.
“In the efforts to win over an audience, there are a few misguided elements who offer unverified and illicit peeks into our deliberations. Since they do not sit in our chamber, they provide snapshots culled from disjointed clues and conversations. Some simply move to speculation on the basis of their simplified and false view of what motivates our judgments,” he stated.
“This minority assumes that [its]stories or opinions will be well-received by the public as they imagine it to be. Those who peddle stereotypes and prejudice fail to see the Filipino as they are. They should follow the example of many serious media practitioners and opinion leaders who help our people as they engage in serious and deep analytical discussion of public issues in all forms of public media,” Leonen said.
Leonen belied reports on supposed factions in the SC and said he is not beholden to the President.
“We are not beholden to the powers that appoint us. There are no factions in this court,” he said.