The impeachment process against embattled Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen will be completed by September, Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez predicted Thursday.
The House of Representatives Committee on Justice will begin discussing the impeachment complaint on May 27 or next Thursday, its secretariat also confirmed.
The panel, chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso III, will determine whether the complaint is sufficient in form and substance.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has assured Leonen that he would get a "fair trial" on the complaint levelled against him.
Rodriguez made his observation during the Batasan Forum even as he stressed it is the “constitutional duty” of the members of the Congress to decide on matters that are elevated to the lawmakers by concerned citizens, such as the impeachment complaint filed against Leonen.
“I believed before October, this should be finished. Because we have to do it. We should finish it, it’s our constitutional duty,” he pointed out.
Rodriguez presented the September deadline as a time frame to decide on whether to send the impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial.
He said this was not far-fetched since the lawmakers will do their jobs even during the Congress recess from June 4 to July 25.
Impeachment is the manner to remove members of the Supreme Court as stipulated in the 1987 Constitution.
Another way is the quo warranto procedure, where the task to end the judicial career of a high magistrate is delegated to the members of the Supreme Court.
This was proven legally correct and accepted after then-Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno was removed in 2018 after Solicitor General Jose Calida filed complaints against her through quo warranto.
Rodriguez, who represents Cagayan de Oro’s second district, said the end of the Leonen trial by September was projected after the impeachment complaint was referred to the House Justice Committee on Tuesday by Majority Leader Martin Romualdez.
Based on House Rules of Impeachment, the justice committee headed by Veloso will first find out if the impeachment complaint is sufficient in form, which refers to the format of the impeachment complaint.
If the complaint is sufficient in form, the committee will then determine if the complaint is sufficient in substance.
“The requirement of substance is met if there is a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee. If the committee finds that the complaint is not sufficient in substance, it shall dismiss the complaint and shall submit its report as provided hereunder,” the rules state.
Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance – Maharlika (FLAGG -Maharlika) Secretary-General Edwin Cordevilla, who filed the case against Leonen, said the magistrate committed “culpable violation of the Constitution.”
He accused Leonen of allegedly “arbitrarily, willfully, intentionally, deliberately and malevolently, with evident bad faith, failing to dispose of at least” 37 cases out of more than 81 cases that were raffled off to his court few months after he was appointed to the Supreme Court in November 2012.
The 37 cases were categorized for Leonen’s immediate decision, Cordevilla said in his filing.
Supreme Court records showed that Leonen has the highest number of cases under his docket.
The complaint said that as Supreme Court magistrate, Leonen was “mandated by Section 15 (1), Article 8, in relation to Section 16, Article III of the Constitution, which mandates the prompt action and speedy disposition of cases” to make ponencias of the cases assigned to him within not more than 24 months.
Cordevilla also accused Leonen of not doing his job as head of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), as the magistrate had no decision on “dozens” of electoral protests as of this month.
Leonen was also accused of refusing to file his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for 15 times while serving as professor at the College of Law at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
Cordevilla earlier told reporters the impeachment complaint has clearly specified the supposed crimes committed by Leonen so that it would pass the criteria of substance pegged by the House Rules on Impeachment.
Rodriguez revealed there is a big possibility that the House majority need not take part in the impeachment complaint if 100 congressmen will agree to immediately send it to the Senate.
As of May 19, only Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Barba, who helped Cordevilla file the complaint, has endorsed Leonen’s impeachment.
Previously, 100 congressmen endorsed the impeachment complaint against then-President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2019, which led to his trial by the Senate.
“That’s the third option. The option of being able to have hundred,
one hundred signatures… the impeachment complaint will be immediately transmitted to the Senate, and that complaint becomes the article of impeachment. So, diretso ‘yan… hundred signatures diretso sa Senado,” Rodriguez explained.
“Moot na ‘yung mga hearing. Wala na. Hundred persons (congressmen) already express their support for the impeachment, wala na. Just goes up [in the Senate],” he added.
Even the minority group headed by Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Estephen Paduano is “very much interested” to participate in the proceedings against Leonen.
Paduano said in a statement his group will ensure that proper impeachment procedures would be strictly followed and carried out.
The other concern of the minority, according to Paduano, is that each member of the minority with voting rights in the committee “is free to deliver their conscience vote on the impeachment.”
Aside from culpable violation of the Philippine Constitution, Leonen as also slapped with violations of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.