Quo warranto vs Leonen? House to insist on jurisdiction over impeachable officials - lawmaker

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Posted at Dec 10 2020 09:17 AM | Updated as of Dec 10 2020 09:29 AM

Quo warranto vs Leonen? House to insist on jurisdiction over impeachable officials - lawmaker 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 - The House of Representatives will insist on its jurisdiction over cases against impeachable officials, a lawmaker said Thursday after a complaint was filed against Supreme Court associate justice Marvic Leonen.

Leonen is accused of "culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust" by lawyers Lorenzo Gadon and Edwin Cordevilla.

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The House Committee on Justice may tackle the impeachment complaint next year as congressional sessions are scheduled to end on Wednesday, said vice chair Rufus Rodriguez.

"I believe that the Supreme Court will not commit the same mistake of having a quo warranto against impeachable officials because under the Constitution. only the House will impeach and only the Senate will hear and remove," he told ANC's Matters of Fact.

"We assure we will insist on the committee that we will have the exclusive jurisdiction and this particular case will not happen like what happened to the former Chief Justice (Maria Lourdes) Sereno...It is only the Congress that can remove impeachable officials."

Sereno's appointment was nullified by the high court in 2018 as she was facing an impeachment complaint before the House of Representatives.

It is the House committee's duty to hear and determine if the complaint has substance and is sufficient in form, Rodriguez said.

"We determine not on motives. We determine it on the corners of the complaint itself because it is a right of everyone to file a complaint as long as it is endorsed by one congressman," he said.

"There are innuendoes that this is political, this is something the motives are not very clear, not laudable. That’s something beyond the committee."

The complaint was 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.

Similar to Sereno's case, the complaint against Leonen alleged that he 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 complaint also alleged that the SC magistrate committed culpable violation of the Constitution for arbitrarily delaying the resolution of cases pending before him due to his "incompetence and inefficiency" as chairperson of the House Electoral Tribunal.

Incompetence is not a ground for impeachment, Rodriguez said.

"Competence is not but it might be. The Supreme Court has decided already what is the meaning of betrayal of public trust, it enlarges the scope of the impeachment grounds," he said.

"As defined by the Supreme Court it is something not criminal but because of its impact on public service then it rises to a level of a Constitutional violation of public trust."

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