MANILA — Faculty members of the University of the Philippines College of Law expressed support for its former dean, now Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, as he faces an impeachment complaint, and called on the government to focus on more pressing issues.
In a statement dated Dec. 10, more than a hundred faculty members said they "stand by (Leonen's) character, his integrity, and his principles."
“We may not agree with everything he has written while on the Court, but we stand by his character, his integrity, and his principles. As teachers of the law and formators of future lawyers, we value the freedom to think, and to form, hold, and express an opinion," the statement read.
"We aspire for an independent, responsive, relevant, and principled judiciary that stands for, and serves, the people. We look for intelligent, well-written, and well-reasoned decisions of the Supreme Court which affirm “bright line” rules and balancing tests but also break new ground on the various nooks and crannies and nuances of the law.”
The signatories said the government should not let this issue overshadow more pressing ones, like the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc globally.
"We must not allow this latest assault to send our nation further down the dark road, especially while a global pandemic still hangs over all our heads and threatens to bring our society into despair and destitution," they said.
"Overcoming the pandemic demands the undivided attention of the Executive and Legislative Branches, and the spectacle of political circuses should not distract the government from this far more important task."
"We call on the members of the House of Representatives to do right by the people—dismiss the baseless impeachment complaint against Justice Leonen—and focus on the more important work at hand," they wrote.
Leonen, whose term is to expire in 2032, is facing an impeachment complaint before the House of Representatives for alleged betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
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 in UP.
“The complaint does not state any ground for impeachment—certainly, not the alleged sloth or alleged incompetence or even that he frequently dissents—yet he has been targeted because he dares to uphold the laws and procedures that try to safeguard our electoral processes against the whims and abuses of those seeking greater political power," the faculty members said.
"He is under fire because he remains a steady, sanguine, and intelligent voice against the increasingly unreasonable demands of despots-in-waiting and their cohorts," they said of Leonen.
The associate justice had served as dean of the UP College of Law and became director of its legal aid program.
More than a hundred of Leonen’s former colleagues and friends have also given him their support.
Leonen earlier 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.”
Larry Gadon, the controversial once-suspended lawyer facing several disbarment complaints, filed the impeachment complaint against Leonen.
Before being named to the high court in 2012, Leonen was the government's chief peace negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Leonen graduated magna cum laude from the UP School of Economics in 1983. He completed his law degree in UP in 1987, and joined the lawyer's rolls on May 28, 1988.