The Philippine Star - House sidelines Leonen impeach case

News & Interviews
12 December 2020

By Edu Punay | The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The complaint filed in Congress to oust Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen would have to wait until next year, a House of Representatives leader said yesterday.

Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez said the impeachment complaint cannot immediately move forward as the House still has its hands full with priority measures such as the 2020 national budget, the proposed Bayanihan 3 law and several other crucial measures for pandemic and calamity response and recovery programs.

“Definitely, we will have to defer hearings to next year after the budget, Bayanihan 3 and other fiscal measures,” he stressed in an interview via Zoom.

Rodriguez, vice chairman of the justice committee that will handle the impeachment complaint, said the House would not be able to tackle Leonen’s case this year as Congress is set to adjourn session next week and resume on Jan. 18.

“I think there will be no more time. We will already have our recess on Dec. 18, so we don’t have any material time at this time,” he explained, adding that the schedule would depend on panel chair and Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso III.

Rodriguez said their panel’s action on the impeachment complaint also depends on how soon the House leadership would act on it.

He explained that under House rules, an impeachment complaint would have to be calendared first in the plenary before it could be referred to the justice committee.

“We have to wait for the referral from the plenary.

Once referred to the justice committee, only then can we start the determination of the sufficiency in form and substance.

But the actual hearings would be set later on.

We cannot rush this because we are talking here of the member of the highest magistrate, the highest court of the land,” he pointed out.

As a matter of procedure, the Cagayan de Oro congressman said their panel would then come up with a committee report and a resolution that will be submitted to the plenary after the hearings.

If there is a substantial reason to proceed with the impeachment, Rodriguez said the House will decide through a plenary debate whether to approve or not the resolution.

Once approved, the resolution will be converted into the Articles of Impeachment.

“The Articles of Impeachment upon a vote of one-third of all the members of Congress will be immediately transmitted to the Senate, who will conduct the trials.

They are the hearers of the Articles of Impeachment,” Rodriguez said.

Otherwise, the complaint would be dismissed in the committee level if there is no sufficient grounds established during the hearings.

“In the hearing, we will afford all the opportunity to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to be able to answer the complaint and to be able to produce evidence on his behalf.

We will make sure that this will be fair and objective,” Rodriguez said.

The complaint against Leonen was filed earlier this week by Edwin Cordevilla, secretary general of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government, who was assisted by lawyer Larry Gadon.

Endorsed by Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, the complainant alleged that Leonen “clearly lacks integrity because he failed to file his SALN.”

It cited a newspaper column which accused Leonen of failure to file SALN for 15 years.

The complainant also accused Leonen of being “negligent and incompetent” for supposedly failing to dispose of 37 cases in the Supreme Court in violation of the constitutional mandate that cases should be decided within 24 months from the time it is submitted for resolution.