The House of Representatives committee on justice on Thursday dismissed the impeachment complaint filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
The committee, chaired by Rep. Vicente Veloso III of Leyte, declared that the complaint filed by one Edwin Cordevilla, secretary-general of the Filipino League of Advocates For Good Government, was based on hearsay.
Forty-four congressmen voted for the dismissal of the complaint while two inhibited themselves.
Veloso said the committee will return the complaint to the House Secretary General within three session days after it decided on the complaint, with the annotations on why it dismissed the complaint.
"Being hearsay and not based on an authentic record, we cannot take this as a ground even on the question of verification on the matter of the court," Veloso said.
"The verification failed to satisfy the requirement that the allegations of the complainant must be based on his personal knowledge or must be based on authentic records," he added.
Leonen lauded the unanimous vote of the committee on justice of the House of Representatives to dismiss the impeachment complaint against him on ground that it is insufficient in form and substance.
Leonen described the House committee on justice’s vote as an affirmation of “constitutional independence of the Judiciary by not allowing others to take advantage of the vulnerability of its members.
“They have created a precedent that warns against the abuse and trivialization of constitutional processes,” Leonen said in a statement.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the decision of the House justice panel must be respected even as he urged the parties concerned to move on to allow Congress to focus on its legislative function especially at this time of pandemic.
"The House committee on justice has spoken and we must respect its decision," Velasco said in a statement.
"With the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against Justice Leonen, Congress can now focus more on the task at hand, which is to produce legislation that would further help our countrymen and the economy recover from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," Velasco added.
Several legislators agreed with the decision of the committee to dismiss the complaint as the allegations cited in the complaint were not based on personal knowledge and were not supported by authentic records.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the impeachment complaint was both insufficient in form and in substance.
He said newspaper accounts as well as columnists' opinions as bases would render the impeachment complaint as "invariably hearsay," and that the allegations stated in the complaint should be based on "personal knowledge."
Similarly, Deputy Speaker Bienvenido Abante Jr. questioned the timing of the filing of the complaint as the country is still facing the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"People are dying every day and we need all the time we have in Congress to legislate measures that will help our people fight this disease and our country to recover," Abante said.
"Do we really need an impeachment during a pandemic? Is this really the right time to do this?" he added.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate agreed with his fellow legislators that the Cordevilla complaint had to be dismissed outright.
Cordevilla filed the impeachment complaint at the House in December 2020.
Cordevilla in his complaint said Leonen committed a 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.
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.
Leonen said the dismissal of the impeachment complaint was a reminder to some people “not to waste our time and resources for narrow parochial selfish gains.”
“To the prime movers of this baseless complaint and those who have supported them, know this: I wish you well, and I wish that you will also find your own peace,” he said.
“There are those in positions of leadership who will clearly see your motives and will do the right thing. Our people clearly see your motives. At the right time, they will do the right thing,” he added.
Cordevilla’s complaint was endorsed by Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, a cousin of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose election protest was dismissed by the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), in February.
“There is no victory to be celebrated by anyone,” said Leonen, who wrote the PET decision to dismiss the poll protest of Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Leonen expressed his gratitude and acknowledged his colleagues in the judiciary, deans, professors, and lawyers for their support.
“Humanity faces its most difficult existential challenges. The twin threats of a raging pandemic and the dire effects of climate change should be an inspiration for all of us to find ways to help each other evolve the kind of governance founded on care and compassion,” he said.
“This has never been a time for recrimination. This is not the time to destroy institutions to satisfy greed and lust for power. We cannot progress by destroying the lives and reputation of others,” he added.