MANILA - Lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon on Monday said the Marcoses had nothing to do with the impeachment complaint he filed on behalf of a client against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
Gadon lodged the impeachment complaint with the House of Representatives on Monday, accusing Leonen of culpable violation of the Constitution for supposedly delaying resolution of pending cases before the high court and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.
He also accused Leonen of betrayal of public trust for allegedly failing to file his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) while he was teaching at the University of the Philippines for 15 years.
Ilocos Norte 2nd Dist. Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, a cousin of defeated 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., endorsed the complaint, raising speculations that the Marcoses were behind the move to oust Leonen.
Leonen is the member-in-charge of Bongbong’s election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
Bongbong tried but failed to have Leonen inhibit from his case.
“The case of the PET of BBM has not been mentioned here. There’s no connection,” Gadon told reporters in a press conference shortly after filing the complaint.
“Cong. Barba endorsed this because complainant is a constituent in his own district. That’s the only connection,” he said.
The complainant, a certain Edwin Cordevilla, is a journalist based in Batac, Ilocos Norte, according to Gadon. He claims to be the secretary general of a previously-unheard of group called Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government supposedly based in Makati City.
Gadon said he has not talked to Bongbong about the impeachment complaint, but acknowledged that Bongbong tried to stop him from pursuing the quo warranto petition against Leonen, also based on Leonen’s supposed non-filing of the SALNs.
“'Yong kay Atty. Larry Gadon, inaawat ko nga siya. I was telling him, 'wag muna, 'wag muna, 'wag muna until lumabas nga 'yong comments galing sa Comelec (Commission on Elections) at sa SolGen (Solicitor General)," Bongbong said in a November press conference shortly after seeking Leonen’s inhibition from the PET case.
(Regarding Atty. Larry Gadon, I tried to stop him. I was telling him, not now and to just wait until comments from the Comelec and SolGen are released.)
"Naging maliwanag na panlilinlang talaga ang ginagawa ni Justice Leonen, so nag-file na siya, nag-ano na siya para sa SALN."
(It became clear that Justice Leonen tried to deceive, so Gadon took action on the SALN.)
“Si Atty. Gadon, we are in touch, nagte-text kami (we text each other),” he added.
The PET junked that motion.
In a press briefing Monday morning, Gadon called Leonen "incompetent, lazy and biased" supposedly because he has 82 pending cases yet to be resolved, and is allegedly critical of the Duterte administration and Marcoses.
Leonen is among the most vocal dissenters in the SC even during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III, writing extensive opinions.
Gadon acknowledged the impeachment complaint is based on newspaper articles from The Manila Times.
Asked for documentary evidence, he said there were documents but the original and certified true copies would be summoned by the House of Representatives.
He said that unlike a regular case where pieces of evidence were required to be attached, an impeachment complaint allows a more liberal rule on evidence.
“An impeachment case is not a criminal or a regular case filed in regular courts, because in an impeachment case, the House has the power to summon documents and to summon witnesses,” he said.
He recalled that during the impeachment complaint against ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, evidence of her alleged non-filing of SALNs came to light during the House probe, prompting a lawmaker to suggest that the same may be used to file a quo warranto petition against Sereno before the Supreme Court.
A quo warranto petition was filed in March 2018 and by May, the SC had ruled to oust Sereno for what it says is her lack of integrity because of the non-filing of her SALNs.
Gadon said he was not foreclosing the possibility that the impeachment complaint against Leonen would follow the same route but insisted that the House probe was not a means to gather evidence against Leonen.
The SC had previously blocked his and the Solicitor General’s bid to secure copies of Leonen’s SALNs.
“The hearings in the House is not a fishing expedition. They have the right and duty to know the truth. They can summon with their powers any document or person,” Gadon said.
Comparing the complaint against Leonen with that against Sereno, Gadon said it was “easier” to remove the former because in the latter’s case, he had to secure evidence for various allegations including the bidding of a luxury vehicle, among others.
“It is easier to impeach Leonen because the issue here is very simple. The grounds are determinable by yes or no. Is it true there are 82 cases you have not decided on?"
The impeachment complaint accused Leonen of not resolving 37 of 82 pending cases within 24 months, supposedly violating section 15(1) of Article VIII of the Constitution, which requires all cases to be resolved within 24 months from the date of submission to the SC.
Gadon said the provision was self-executing and could be implemented even without a law.
"Mabigat ito (This is serious), [a] direct violation of Constitution," he said.
Leonen said he had yet to receive a copy of the impeachment complaint and had thus far not commented on the specific allegations.
However, he said he was confident House leaders would “do the right thing” in prioritizing more “urgent and pressing needs of our people” instead of “false issues raised by some for clearly personal or vindictive reasons.”