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The Philippine Star - Impeach complaint filed vs Leonen

News & Interviews
8 December 2020

By Delon Porcalla | The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — An impeachment complaint has been filed against Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen before the House of Representatives for his alleged failure to file his assets for 15 years and for delaying the resolution of cases.

Edwin Cordevilla, secretary general of a group called Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government, was accompanied by his lawyer Larry Gadon when he filed the impeachment complaint yesterday.

It was Gadon’s impeachment complaint against then chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno that triggered her ouster by Congress.

The complaint against Leonen was “subscribed and sworn” to before House secretary-general Mark Llandro Mendoza, and was “endorsed” by Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos-Barba, a cousin of former senator Bongbong Marcos who is also a very close friend and political ally of Gadon.

Mendoza pointed out that if Sereno’s failure to file her SALN for six years had prompted her impeachment in 2018, so should Leonen’s failure to file his for 15 years justify his ouster.

“Since Leonen failed to file his SALN for 15 years, it would be difficult for the investigating authorities to pin him down in the event that a corruption case is filed against him,” Cordevilla maintained.

“If Leonen 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, reiterating that the magistrate had “completely ignored the law.”

Cordevilla maintained that Leonen, who was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino III in November 2012, “lacks integrity because he willfully and intentionally failed to file his SALN during his years at UP, which is a mandatory requirement for all public officers.”

Leonen was a professional lecturer at UP from 1989 to 2011, a year before he joined the SC.

“He has betrayed public trust,” Cordevilla emphasized, citing as well Leonen’s “bias and partiality” toward Aquino’s Liberal Party for which his favorable votes were “apparent” in all SC cases.

The SC justice was also accused of “gross dereliction of duty” for his failure to resolve cases on his desk as quickly as possible, noting that for the past eight years, he has an “overall backlog of cases” or “aging cases” of 82.

Of the 82 cases, 37 had been assigned to him “several years ago,” he said, adding that court rules require that cases “should be decided within 24 months from the time it is submitted for resolution.”

“It is also apparent that he has been both negligent and incompetent for failing to dispose 37 cases in the SC. Leonen failed to consider the implication of these prolonged delays in the lives of the litigants,” Cordevilla maintained.

“He should know that when justice is delayed to a fault, uncertainty in the litigants lingers, thereby diminishing trust and confidence in the Court,” he said.

As chairman of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), Leonen also delayed the resolution of 34 cases – comprising 21 electoral protests and 13 quo warranto cases.

“Elections involve the people’s exercise of their sovereign authority to choose their representatives. It is the embodiment of the popular will because it involves the choice or selection of candidates to public office by popular vote,” Cordevilla said.

“If any of the justices believe they are exempt from being accountable to the people, then they have no place in the judiciary,” the impeachment complaint read.

‘Do the right thing’

Reacting to the filing of the complaint, Leonen said House members should dismiss it outright as there are more pressing matters that deserve attention.

“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 (the right time) to attend to false issues by some for clearly personal and vindictive reasons,” Leonen said.

“Regardless, we wish everyone the best for this season of kindness and compassion. May we all continue to help others who are still truly in need,” he added.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia belittled the substance of the complaint.

“The vulnerability of these kinds of complaints is that they all at once suffer from impression of insufficiency, nay defects, in form and substance. With the checkered record of the goader, it is suspect and comes not from the purest of intentions. At any rate, we need decent dissent, nay erudite independence in our judiciary. That is what these nuisance complaints want to impeach,” Olalia said.

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno also slammed the complaint against Leonen.

“Their quo warranto and motion to inhibit failed, now they’re pushing for an impeachment. Looks like the Marcoses are trying all their tactics on AJ Leonen,” Diokno said in a statement.

“It’s different when you’re in power, you can easily bend the law and the institutions for your own sake. Let’s not allow this,” he said in Filipino.

Malacañang meanwhile claimed President Duterte had nothing to do with the filing of the impeachment complaint.

“Absolutely not. None... we have nothing to do with that. We don’t even know who the proponents are,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing yesterday when asked whether the filing of the complaint has Duterte’s approval.

“I don’t know whose project is that. It’s in the House,” he added.

Last month, Roque defended the Office of the Solicitor General’s motion for Leonen to inhibit from the case involving the vice presidential election protest, saying it had to be filed because it is within the interest of the people to know who really won in the polls. – Helen Flores, Alexis Romero, Evelyn Macairan