Leonen named SC Justice; MILF welcomes his appointment

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 Nov) – President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has appointed government peace panel chair Mario Victor (Marvic) F. Leonen as the new Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a move welcomed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with whom government signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15 in Malacañan Palace.

“We welcome the appointment! My sincerest congratulations! He deserves it,” MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews in a text message.

The President has yet to name Leonen’s replacement in the peace panel that hopes to finish with the MILF next month the annexes to the FAB on wealth and power-sharing and normalization. The Framework and the annexes complete the comprehensive peace agreement.

Leonen, who is turning 50 next month, was Dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Law when he was named GPH peace panel chair on July 15, 2010, just two weeks after President Aquino’s oath-taking. Appointed at 47, he was the youngest GPH peace panel chair in the 38-year history of the peace negotiations with the Moro liberation fronts. He is the  youngest Justice appointed to the Supreme Court since 1938.

In a statement, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said Leonen’s appointment “will not affect the peace process in any negative way” because the negotiations are on track and “moving towards the completion of the Comprehensive Agreement by the end of the year.”

“OPAPP and the Panel are ready to ensure the necessary leadership for the Panel to successfully complete its tasks,” the statement read.

Leonen told MindaNews on November 15 in Kuala Lumpur that he was just one of 14 government negotiators and that no one, not even the chair is indispensable.

The GPH peace panel has five members and two alternates while the rest are members of the Technical Working Groups (TWG).

“Government is confident that nobody is indispensable, not even the chair. Di naman nagbabago yung principles, hindi nagbabago ang principals and more importantly, there is already a Framework Agreement,” Leonen said when asked on scenarios should he be named Associate Justice.

He said the panel has discussed the transition if, indeed, he would be named to the SC post, and that he was going to “strongly recommend” someone from the panel.

The GPH and MILF peace panels will not be disbanded even after the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement before the year ends as both parties had agreed to this arrangement under the FAB.

The FAB provides that at the end of the transition period, the GPH and MILF peace panels, together with the Malaysian facilitator and the third party monitoring team, “shall convene a meeting to review, assess or evaluate the implementation of all agreements and the progress of the transition” and “an ‘exit document’ officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.”

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda announced Leonen’s appointment during the regular press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.

Leonen, the frontrunner among seven nominees shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council, was the last to be interviewed by the President.

Leonen filled the seat vacated by Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno who was named Chief Justice in August, after the impeachment of her predecessor, Renato Corona.

Lacierda said President Aquino views his appointment of Leonen as “a contribution to his vision of an empowered, independent, and reformist Judiciary.”

“Dean Leonen had contributed significantly to the cause of a just, dignified, and lasting peace with our Muslim brothers and sisters while keeping with the spirit and letter of the Constitution. 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,” Lacierda was quoted in a report posted on the website of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

“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 said.

Leonen received his Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines and Master of Laws from the Columbia University in New York. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2012/11/21/leonen-named-sc-justice-milf-welcomes-his-appointment/

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