House opposition bloc vows to pin down Leonen
MANILA, Philippines — The official opposition bloc in the House of Representatives yesterday vowed to pursue the impeachment complaint that a non-government organization filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen for culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
“The minority will perform its constitutionally mandated duty in the impeachment process,” House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano of party-list Abang Lingkod, who heads the 25 or so opposition congressmen, said.
“We will ensure that in the determination of sufficiency in form and substance, the Rules of Impeachment will be strictly followed to the letter,” Paduano added, citing as well Article 11, Section 3 of the Charter granting the House exclusive power on impeachment cases.
“We call on our colleagues, most especially members of the House justice committee, to exercise prudence and fairness. May we be guided by the Almighty in the dispensation of this impeachment complaint,” he declared.
The House justice committee is headed by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, a former Court of Appeals justice.
Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government secretary-general Edwin Cordevilla filed the impeachment complaint, along with his lawyer Larry Gadon who himself succeeded in booting out chief justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno in 2018 for failing to file her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Under Philippine laws, all government officials – particularly those in the higher echelons of governance like SC justices, senators, the president, vice president, congressmen, Cabinet members and the like – are compelled to file their annual SALNs.
“His incompetence and inefficiency has caused the erosion of the public’s faith in our judicial system,” Cordevilla wrote, noting that Leonen failed to file his SALNs for 15 years, much more than Sereno’s six years.
“It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Leonen dissented in the quo warranto proceedings against Sereno because he himself failed to file his SALNs. In those 15 years, he wantonly disregarded not just the law but our very own Constitution, which he swore to uphold and protect,” Cordevilla told the lawmakers.
“The willful and intentional disregard of our Constitution evidently proves his lack of integrity. Thus, just like Sereno, he must be disqualified from holding public office,” he said.
“In failing to submit his SALNs for 15 years, Leonen is guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust. He is unfit to be a member of the judiciary and must accordingly be removed as an associate justice of the SC,” he added.
Cordevilla disclosed that Leonen did not file his SALNs several times since he began as a professional lecturer at the University of the Philippines, where he stayed until 2010 or 2011 as law dean, until he was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino III to the SC in November 2012.
Marcos camp denies involvement
The camp of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. yesterday denied that they were involved in the filing of the impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives against Leonen.
Marcos’ lawyer Victor Rodriguez said his client was not consulted nor was he involved in the decision of Cordevilla, who filed the complaint.
Cordevilla was accompanied by his lawyer Gadon last Monday when he filed the complaint against Leonen, which was then endorsed by Ilocos Norte Second District Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, a cousin of former senator Marcos.
Rodriguez, however, clarified that they were not a party to the filing of the impeachment complaint.
“No, senator Bongbong is not connected and has nothing to do with the impeachment complaint filed against Associate Justice Leonen,” he said.
“We refrain from commenting on an event or case where we are not a party as it is inappropriate for anyone to make wild accusations on something that they have no basic comprehension of the allegations, have not read the complaint and are just but the usual ballyhoos,” he added.
At the Nov. 9 virtual press conference called by Marcos, he had admitted that he was “in touch” with Gadon and they even exchanged text messages. During that time, however, Marcos discouraged Gadon from making moves to remove Leonen from the SC since they were still waiting for comments from the Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), on the Motion to Inhibit Leonen from the electoral protest case he filed against Vice President Leni Robredo in connection with the result of the 2016 vice presidential race.
Marcos and Solicitor General Jose Calida filed separate motions to inhibit against Leonen on Nov. 9, but on Nov. 17, the tribunal denied their motions. – Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe