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The Manila Times - Impeachment rap filed vs Leonen

News & Interviews
8 December 2020

By ARLIE O. CALALO | The Manila Times

AN impeachment complaint was filed on Monday against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen before the House of Representatives for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

The 40-page complaint was filed by Edwin Cordevilla, secretary-general of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance-Maharlika (FLAG-Maharlika).

Cordevilla’s lawyer, Lorenzo Gadon, said Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos-Barba endorsed the complaint.

Barba is the cousin of former senator Ferdinand Marcos, who has a pending electoral protest before the Supreme Court, which serves as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

Leonen is in charge of the protest case.

Gadon said the filing of the complaint had nothing to do with the fact that Barba and Marcos are relatives.

Marcos “did not have anything to do with this particular complaint. He did not know this as we never had any chance to talk about this. In fact, when I filed the quo warranto petition prior to this impeachment complaint demanding for Leonen’s release of his SALN (statement of assets, liability and net worth), he even tried to discourage me from pursuing it because he did not want to be blamed that he was the one who initiated it,” he explained in a news briefing.

Gadon said Cordevilla is a town-mate and a constituent of Barba.

He added that the charge of culpable violation of the Constitution stems from Leonen’s failure to resolve 82 cases within the required 24-month period.

The complaint said Leonen was sitting on 37 “aging” cases.

“Respondent’s track record of gross inefficiency as shown by the snail pace in which he resolves his cases casts doubts on his competency. No other sitting justice has ever displayed the same inefficiency and incompetence,” the complaint read.

Gadon said Leonen betrayed public trust for failing to file SALNs from 1989 to 2003 and 2008 to 2009, or a total of 15 years, including the time he was the dean of the College of Law at the University of the Philippines.

“I was just wondering why the Supreme Court could not provide me the copies of Leonen’s SALN because the truth is that they do not have copies of his SALN, unlike when I asked then for the similar documents of then-Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, it readily gave me copies,” the lawyer added.

In an 8-6 decision, the Supreme Court ousted Sereno as chief justice in 2018 for failing to file her SALN. The court handed down its ruling on May 11, 2018.

Describing Leonen as incompetent, biased and lazy, Gadon said the magistrate was not even qualified to be part of the high court.

“It was only the former president Noynoy (Benigno Aquino 3rd) who appointed him from nowhere, and his only experience was when he became chief negotiator of the peace talks between the government and MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). He was not even involved in any previous work in the judiciary,” Gadon said.

Leonen is one of the three remaining Aquino appointees in the Supreme Court.

In filing the complaint, Gadon said Cordevilla drew from reliable sources, including articles written by former ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao, who writes a column for The Manila Times.

In the complaint, Cordevilla said it would be difficult for investigating authorities to pin Leonen down in a corruption trial.

“If respondent wakes up one day and decides to build a castle for his retirement home, it would be next to impossible to examine his assets and net worth since these were never filed for 15 whole years,” he added.

He claimed that he was also shocked that Leonen, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, would think of renovating a cottage assigned to him in the Supreme Court compound in Baguio City.

The House will determine if the complaint is sufficient in form and substance. If the complaint holds up, the chamber will decide whether to impeach Leonen.

An impeachment trial will be held, with the Senate acting as judges and the House taking on the role of prosecutor.

In a statement on Monday, Leonen said he welcomes the impeachment complaint and asked the lawmakers “to do the right thing.”

“Given the urgent and pressing needs of our people during this time of crises, we are confident that our leaders will do the right thing. Certainly, this may not be to attend to false issues raised by some for clearly personal or vindictive reasons,” he bared.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said President Rodrigo Duterte had nothing to do with the filing of the impeachment charge against Leonen.

“Absolutely none. Wala pong kinalaman diyan (We have nothing to do with that0. We don’t even know who the proponents are,” he added.