"The impeachment complaint against the magistrate was included in the order of business."
Since last year, Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has been able to evade every move to have him removed from his seat.
When lawyer Larry Gadon started asking for copies of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth which could serve the basis for invalidating his appointment to the SC, he almost had the entire judiciary, including the Ombudsman, backing him up, refusing to release copies, if there ever were, to Gadon. Not even the entry of Solicitor General Jose Calida could soften the stance of Leonen’s colleagues. This despite the fact, almost all of them had voted to invalidate Maria Lourdes Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice on the very same basis Leonen is facing.
Even the filing of an impeachment case against him appeared to go nowhere as the House seemed to have put out the complaint filed by Edwin Cordevilla, secretary general of the Filipino League of Advocates For Good Government, in the backburner. There was no movement at all.
That is, until early this week.
Less than 24 hours after Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta hung up his robe, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco finally endorsed to the House Committee on Rules the impeachment complaint against Leonen.
In a letter addressed to House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez dated March 25, Velasco endorsed the original copies of the impeachment complaint against Leonen for “inclusion in the order of business.”
While it is provided for under the rules on impeachment for the 18th Congress, the Speaker should have an impeachment complaint included in the Order of Business, or the agenda of the House session, within 10 session days from receipt, the leaders of the House, or whoever was responsible, successfully maneuvered the delay by running around the House Rules, suspending session days instead of adjourning, thus, enabling even 10 session days to be counted as one session day.
I’m not sure why the House had opted to delay the endorsement of the impeachment complaint against Leonen until after Peralta had retired. The allegations against the SC associate justice are serious.
For a starter, Cordevilla alleged that Leonen committed culpable violation of the Constitution for supposedly failing to dispose of at least 37 cases within 24 months, which is in violation of Section 16, Article III of the Constitution which mandates the speedy disposition of cases.
Cordevilla claims that Leonen also violated the Constitution for "arbitrarily, willfully, intentionally, and delayed the resolution of cases pending before him as chairperson of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. And no less than Ako Bicol party-list Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr. validated this when he said that there were still "more than 30 pending electoral protests" pending before the HRET almost a year after Leonen was appointed to the body in October 2019.
And of course, the SALN issue. Cordevilla alleged that Leonen betrayed the public trust when he failed to file his SALN during his tenure at the University of the Philippines.
With the endorsement, Gadon, who is assisting Cordevilla, expressed not only elation but also confidence that they would successfully prove the allegations against Leonen and have Leonen tried before an impeachment court.
“I am glad that the impeachment complaint is finally endorsed for inclusion in the Order of Business,” Gadon said.
“We are confident that we will be able to prove the grounds particularly the culpable violation of the Constitution when respondent Leonen sat on more than 80 aging cases,” Gadon added.
Cordevilla also welcomed the news as he expressed his “optimism that the duly elected representatives in Congress will do their sworn duty to review and vote on the merits of our complaint against Leonen.”
“We trust that given the precedent set forth in similar past rulings regarding our Supreme Court Justices for far lesser offenses that Justice will prevail. God-willing should the majority of our representatives find our complaint with merit, let this serve as warning to those in the Judiciary that as the one who serves as our Judge that they should be exemplary in their compliance with all laws and for those who purposely delay Justice that Justice delayed is Justice Denied,” he said.
But if ever there’s one thing that might go in Leonen’s favor, is the coming 2022 elections. He may be running out of allies, but the impeachment is a long process and members of both Houses may become too busy in preparation for next year’s polls. And that's probably what Leonen is counting on – for the lawmakers to be too busy to attend to his case. Although it’s a possibility, I highly doubt that as this case could even prop up the images of those seeking reelection.
Or maybe, simultaneous with the impeachment proceedings, Gadon could again resort to his classic move in the Sereno case with the aid of Calida – initiate a quo warranto proceedings against Leonen.
Leonen is running out of allies and is running out of luck.