Ex-justice Jardeleza: Why should a Supreme Court justice be above the law?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2021 12:48 PM

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MANILA - "Why should a Supreme Court justice be above the law?"

Retired Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said this Monday following reports that a House panel would tackle this week the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen for the latter's supposed failure to file his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).

"It is so simple. If you are a Supreme Court justice, before you become a justice, then you file your SALN," he said. "What is so difficult about that?"

For Jardeleza, the SALN is a constitutional requirement.

"If you don't want SALNs, simple lang (it's simple), don't go into government," he said.

However, he noted it remained an "open question" whether the prescriptive period for failure to file SALNs would apply to a sitting justice.

In 2018, the high tribunal promulgated a decision that set the 8-year prescriptive period for Republic Act 6731 or Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which governs the filing of SALNs.

Jardeleza also said it was a "question of facts" whether Leonen violated the Constitution in failing to resolve cases within 24 months.

"Under the Constitution, the courts are supposed to render their decisions within 5 years I believe from the time final pleadings are filed," he said.

"Those are the question of facts involved whether indeed a justice has complied with these requirements of the Constitution."

"That's for Congress to determine first on the facts, then they will apply the law," he added.

In 2019, the Supreme Court held that 24-month period in Section 15(1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution was "a mere directive to ensure this Court’s prompt resolution of cases, and should not be interpreted as an inflexible rule."

The impeachment complaint against Leonen was filed last Dec. 7 by Edwin Cordevilla, secretary-general of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government.

It cited the magistrate's alleged failure to act timely on cases, as well as his supposed failure to file his SALN. This same reason had been used to oust the late Renato Corona and Maria Lourdes Sereno from their positions as Chief Justice.

The complaint was endorsed by Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Angelo Barba, a cousin of defeated Vice Presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos whose electoral protest was supposedly delayed by Leonen.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has already dismissed Marcos' electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo. 

Leonen is 1 of the 3 remaining appointees of then President Benigno Aquino III in the high court.