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Manila Standard - Vindicating Corona

News & Interviews
12 December 2020

By Charlie V. Manalo | Manila Standard

"Weren’t these the same Yellows who declared then that an impeachment proceeding is not a criminal trial but a political act?"

The Yellows’ reaction to the impeachment complaint filed by writer Ed Cordevilla against Associate Justice Marivic Leonen only validates what we have known ever since—that they were very wrong in impeaching and declaring guilty the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

When Cordevilla, with the assistance of lawyer Larry Gadon, filed the impeachment complaint against Leonen last Monday, the Yellows were quick to dismiss the complaint as nothing but a vindictive act executed by the Marcoses for Leonen’s failure to resolve the electoral protest of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr against Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo. This, they say, is attested by the fact that the complaint was endorsed by no less than Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, an uncle of the former senator.

House Deputy Speaker, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, seemed to have already prejudged the case when he said newspaper accounts which were cited in the complaint, won’t hold as evidence. He also vowed the House of Representatives will be firm on its jurisdiction over the case as rumors abound Leone could suffer the same fate as that of Ma. Lourdes Sereno whose appointment as Chief Justice was invalidated following a quo warrant petition initiated against her for failing to file her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, an offense she reportedly shares with Leonen.

Former Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also joined the fray, saying there is no case with Leonen over his unfiled SALN as the prescription period for said offense is only eight years and Leonen supposedly failed to file his SALN, more than ten years ago when he was still teaching at the University of the Philippines.

First things first. On Barba’s endorsement. So what if he is a relative of Bongbong whose protest has been before the SC for over four years now, more than a year on Leonen’s desk? According to reports, Leonen is supposed to release his ponencia on the case in October next year, just days before the filing of the certificates of candidacy for the 2022 elections. Will a different endorser change the narrative? The story will remain the same – Leonen is doing Bongbong and the people an injustice for delaying the decision over the case, in the same manner he is doing an injustice for those who have pending protest cases before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal which he also heads.

Is that being vindictive? Clearly, Leonen has been sitting on his cases over the years, all 82 of them. Have the Yellows been that vocal, accusing former Malacañang’s resident bum of vindictiveness when he effected the impeachment of Corona, whose only crime was upholding the invalidity of the stock distribution option issued by Cory Aquino which effectively exempted their family-owned Hacienda Luisita from agrarian reform?

Newspaper accounts will not hold as evidence in the impeachment case. Well, did the Yellows and their allies from the Left have any piece of evidence against Corona when they impeached him? As far as I remember, they have only gotten hold of their “evidence” during the trial proper when they were mysteriously handed by a small lady or have been left in front of the gate of the debonaire congressman from Quezon City.

Why do I have an uneasy feeling this case would be dismissed? Aside from the fact Rodriguez had declared there is no evidence against Leonen, he is firm in saying he won’t let the case off his hands, just like what happened in Sereno’s case.

According to Rodriguez, “the Constitution is very clear. Impeachable officials like Supreme Court associate justices can only be removed by impeachment,” as he stressed that “the Constitution is supreme over the rules of court.

But Gadon can take the former law dean to some schooling when he said that while it is true the House has the executive authority in initiating an impeachment proceeding, Sereno’s case was decided not on the merits of an impeachable offense but that of an act she committed prior to her appointment.

“Perhaps Congressman Rufus forgot the fact that the ground relied on the quo warranto of Sereno is different from grounds of impeachment,” says Gadon.

“Impeachable offenses pertain to acts committed while in office. Quo warrant pertains to grounds prior to appointment such as lack of qualification,” Gadon explains.

“(And) With due respect to Dean Rufus Rodriguez as many lawyers would agree, he cannot be more authoritative than the Supreme Court, hence his interpretation of the law on removal of officials of the SC cannot be more superior than the SC itself when it ruled on the removal of Sereno. We must be reminded that the SC is the final interpreter of the law,” the lawyer adds.

With regard to Carpio’s assertion, Gadon explains that prescription of a crime is different from that of Leone’s case.

“One may have been a corrupt public official whose crime of theft was not discovered and prosecuted that after 10 years his crime has prescribed and that he can no longer be prosecuted. But he remains a theft and a corrupt official. The integrity was not cleansed,” Gadon says.

“Justice Carpio is so confused. Integrity does not prescribe because it is attached to the character of the person. Sereno was removed not because of the crime of non-filing of SALN but for lack of integrity, lack of honesty in obeying the law. Integrity does not prescribe. It is tacked in one’s character,” Gadon’s lengthy explanation.

So, is the impeachment complaint against Leonen an act of vindictiveness? The complaints raised against him tackles on his integrity or the seeming lack of it and the injustices he had caused those whose case have been pending before him since he got appointed to the SC.

And Corona? He was convicted for an erroneous filing of SALN, a simple offense that can be corrected, unlike the SALN cases of Sereno and Leonen where there was no actual filing.

And weren’t these the same Yellows who declared then that an impeachment proceeding is not a criminal trial but a political act? From the way they are acting and talking now, they are actually vindicating the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.