SC justice Leonen faces impeachment rap before House

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 07 2020 11:20 AM | Updated as of Dec 07 2020 05:31 PM

SC justice Leonen faces impeachment rap before House 1
Chief Philippine government negotiator Marvic Leonen arrives at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on October 8, 2012, following Leonen's return from peace talks with the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur the past few days. Noel Celis, AFP

MANILA (UDPATE) - A group on Monday filed an impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen before the House of Representatives for alleged betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

Leonen, whose term is set to expire in 2030 still, is facing an impeachment rap filed by private complainant Edwin M. Cordevilla, secretary-general of the Filipino League of Advocates For Good Government or FLAGG. 

Leonen is one of the three remaining appointees of then President Benigno Aquino III to the tribunal—the others being Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe and Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa. 

The complaint has been endorsed by Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Angelo Barba, cousin of Senator Imee Marcos and former Senator Bongbong Marcos whose electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo remains pending at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. The Supreme Court sits as the PET.

The PET recently dismissed Bongbong Marcos' appeal seeking Leonen's inhibition from the poll protest.

It alleged that Leonen committed betrayal of public trust when he failed to file his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for 15 years during his tenure at the University of the Philippines.

The same claim was made against former Supreme Court chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whose appointment was nullified for failing to file her SALN while teaching at the UP College of Law.

The complaint alleged Leonen committed culpable violation of the Constitution for failing to dispose of at least thirty seven (37) cases within 24 months under the Constitution, which mandates the prompt action and speedy disposition of cases.

“Respondent failed to consider the implications of these prolonged delays in the lives of the litigants. He should know that when justice is delayed to a fault, uncertainty in the litigants lingers, thereby diminishing trust and confidence in the Court," it read.

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The complaint also claims the respondent committed culpable violation of the Constitution for arbitrarily delaying the resolution of cases pending before him as chairperson of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).

The complaint also claims that Leonen “believes he is exempt from being accountable to the people." 

"His actions are a disgrace to the Judiciary. His peers bow their heads in shame whenever he engages in self-aggrandizing Dissenting Opinions. His irresponsible pronouncements, both in and out of Court, do not represent the views of the high Court. Unless we put a stop to all his nonsense, public faith in the Judiciary will slowly but surely be diminished," it read.

Leonen said he has yet to receive a copy of the complaint.

"Given the urgent and pressing needs of our people during this time of crises, we are confident that our leader 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 said in a statement.

"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."

Under House rules, the Speaker shall have the complaint included in the Order of Business within 10 session days from receipt following its verification. It shall then be referred to the Committee on Justice within 3 session days.”

The Committee on Justice, currently chaired by former Appellate Court Justice now Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, will deliberate and vote on the complaint to determine sufficiency of form, substance, grounds and probable cause. 

A complaint that lacks any of these will be submitted by the committee to the full House for final dismissal. A complaint that passes the 4 hurdles will be submitted to the plenary for final approval. If the complaint gets the votes of 1/3 of the congressmen during the plenary session, the complaint goes to the Senate for trial.

The last impeachment proceedings in the House was against Sereno, but the House did not get to vote on her case as her appointment was nullified by the high court.

The only successful impeachment trial so far was the one that removed Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

Outside of these, various impeachment complaints had been filed against former President Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III and even President Duterte but none led to a successful conviction. 

Estrada’s impeachment was tried at the Senate but 2001 People Power Revolution preempted a decision. The impeachment complaints against Arroyo, Aquino and Duterte were dismissed by their allies who dominated the House of Representatives during their respective times.

--With reports from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News