Speak out in defense of others, Associate Justice Leonen dares graduates

September 05, 2016

Hon. Marvic F. Leonen, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, challenged the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) Class of 2016 to participate in the “search for social justice and meaningful freedoms.”
“Be passionate about everything there is about being human and living (a) meaningful life. Be passionate that every human being should have that hope and potential to define meaning in their own lives. Find the courage to dissent when necessary so that we can truly enjoy genuine freedoms.”

Hon. Marvic Leonen is flanked by Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ and Mr. Ernesto Tanmantiong, Chairman of the Board of Trustees (Photo by Philip Sison)

Leonen gave the commencement address at the ASoG’s graduation exercises last August 20, 2016 at the Henry Lee Irwin Theatre inside the Ateneo de Manila University’s Quezon City campus.
A former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law, Leonen was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2011. He was also the chief peace negotiator of the country during its talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
While Leonen lauded the Class of 2016 for their achievements, he confessed to have uncertainties about the graduates’ new responsibilities.

“Slowly, we are losing our collective power as a sovereign. Powers entrenched in the status quo pay lip service to bedrock principles that have been paid for with the blood, sweat, and tears of our heroes…It is time that we revisit our culturally ingrained preconceptions. We have to act individually and as a people to reclaim and retain our empowerment,” he said.
For example, Filipinos, he said, view election and its purpose differently.
“The electorate is not considered in its individual capacity. We become only a supporting cast. We are not considered in nuanced and historical collective groupings and identities that matter. Rather, we become the stuff that make the numbers, atomized and presented as statistical percentages of voters or demographics of voters. We are not our nuanced selves with strong convictions about various aspects of identity or public policy,” he lamented.

Ateneo School of Government's Class of 2016 pose with university administrators and Hon. Leonen (Photo by Philip Sison)

Leonen also gave his opinion on the on-going drug war and extra judicial killings, stressing the importance of due process.
“It is my conviction that a policy of deliberately taking human lives — no matter what the justification — is not sanctioned by our laws. Murder is murder.”
Read the full transcript of Hon. Leonen’s commencement address.