Manila Standard - Petition vs. Leonen gains steam

News & Interviews
17 December 2020

By Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard

More than 200 citizens have voluntarily signed up an online petition expressing support for the impeachment complaint filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen before the House of Representatives.

As of December 16, some 228 ordinary citizens made their voice clear as they affixed their signatures on the petition to “Impeach Justice Marvic for failure to file 15 years of SALN and having most backlog cases” posted on change.org. Four days ago, the number was less than 200.

The petition seeks to get 500 signatures from cross-sections of the society in an apparent display to Leonen that a substantial number of ordinary people from various sectors is interested about the charges levelled against him.

SALN refers to the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth, the filing of which is an obligation by every government official and employee as pointed out in the Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Official and Employees.

Associate Justice Leonen was a government employee when he failed to file his SALN for 15 years while serving as law professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law, argued Edwin Cordevilla, secretary-general of the League of the Filipino Advocates for Good Governance-Maharlika (FLAG – Maharlika)

Cordevilla filed the impeachment complaint against Leonen before the House of Representatives on December 7.

Meanwhile, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said on Wednesday that the impeachment complaint filed against Leonen is unlikely to pass because its grounds are “wobbly.”

“I think it will have difficulty passing because the grounds therefore are wobbly, in my opinion,” he told ANC’s “Matters of Fact”.

“First, he says that Marvic Leonen, as a justice of the Supreme Court, have been delayed in the resolution of the cases assigned to him. He has not produced evidence to that in the first place.”

Panganiban also said the complainant had no conclusive proof that Leonen did not file his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth while he was teaching at the University of the Philippines.

Change.org is an online platform where any individual or organization can get a public support through online petition on issues they strongly believe to have an utmost importance.

Through these, the ordinary citizens can participate in a fight against any public official who was alleged to have committed a crime against the people and the laws of the land.

The petition was a move to display a strong public support in the bid of the FLAG – Maharlika to boot out Leonen from the Supreme Court due to supposed “culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust”.

The petition said: “Let us show the will of the people to our congressman and senators and support Filipino League for Good Governance’s Edwin Cordevilla”.

Cordevilla explained in detail in his impeachment petition as to how Leonen supposedly deliberately violated some provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

After reading Cordevilla’s verified complaint posted on the change.org, one of the signatories said Leonen “is biased, inefficient & lazy. He does not have the brilliance and integrity required of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court”.

Another citizen averred “yes he should be impeached because he does not deserve to be the justice of the Supreme Court and he does not do his job in accordance with the salary he receives from the people’s money”.

Cordevilla’s complaint was accepted and endorsed by Ilocos Norte Rep. Antonio Marcos Barba.

Barba told the media that he endorsed the verified impeachment complaint against Leonen because FLAG – Maharlika has strong bases against the magistrate.

He averred that his cousin, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., has no role in his decision because the latter could not dictate nor impose any idea on him.

Once it reached 101 signatories, including Barba, the complaint will be tackled at the House Justice Committee chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso who retired from the judicial branch of the government as Court of Appeals justice before he became a lawmaker.

Lawmakers from the majority and minority block have made it clear to the media that they are willing to take part in the impeachment proceedings by 2021.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, vice – chairman of the House Justice Committee, said the filing of impeachment complaint against Leonen was the “correct legal move” to end the term of service of a Supreme Court justice instead of a quo warranto petition.

The veracity of FLAG – Maharlika’s official complaint before the House of Representatives was in compliance with the Article 11 and Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution, Rodriguez, who is also a deputy speaker, stressed to the media.

House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano of party-list Abang Lingkod, assured the public that his group composed of 25 lawmakers “will perform its constitutionally mandated duty in the impeachment process”.

Cordevilla’s impeachment complaint said that Leonen’s failure to file his SALN for 15 years was not merely a violation of R.A. 6713, but more so a deliberate violation of the Constitution’s Section 17, Article XI.

The other crime alleged by Cordevilla was the inaction of Leonen on 82 cases lodged before the Supreme Court which the FLAG–Maharlika official said as another deliberate violation of the Section 15, Article VIII in relation to Section 16, Article III of the 1987 Constitution.

One of the cases that was filed at the high bench on January 13, 2013, less than a month after Leonen was appointed as high court’s magistrate on November 29, 2012 by then President Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III was Julie Parcon Song versus Lilia Parcon.

Another case that would further pin down Leonen on supposed culpable violation of the Constitution was the 34 electoral protest filed before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, of which Leonen is the head, Cordevilla noted in the complaint.

One of the glaring examples of slow decision of Leonen on 34 cases was the complaint slapped against Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, a member of the Liberal Party where Aquino is still a recognized leader.

Lawyer Larry Gadon has filed before the House of Representatives an impeachment complaint against Leonen over “culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.”

Citing a newspaper article, he accused Leonen of culpable violation of the Constitution for supposedly delaying resolution of pending cases before the high court.

Gadon alleged Leonen failed to resolve 37 of 82 pending cases within 24 months, supposedly violating section 15(1) of Article VIII of the Constitution, which requires all cases to be resolved within 24 months from the date of submission to the SC.

A known Marcos loyalist, Gadon also accused Leonen of betrayal of public trust for allegedly failing to file his SALN while he was teaching at the University of the Philippines.

Leonen is the member-in-charge of the electoral protest of defeated 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo. The case is pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, where high court members sit

Panganiban believed the impeachment complaint was used to “fish for evidence” by using the “coercive power” of the lower chamber’s committee on justice.

“I think impeachment has been cheapened in the sense that it is raised even if the grounds are not very clear, not very justiciable, not very apt for the process,” he said.

“Impeachment is such a high proceeding that it should be used sparingly only when the ground is secure and sure to respect the independence of our judiciary.”

Earlier, Leonen has yet to comment on the specific allegations. However, he said he was confident House leaders would “do the right thing” in prioritizing more “urgent and pressing needs of our people” instead of “false issues raised by some for clearly personal or vindictive reasons.”