TWO vice chairmen of the House committee on justice yesterday assured the public that the panel will be fair in handling the impeachment complaint filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
The lawmakers said Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Barba’s endorsement of the complaint will not affect the panel’s decision even if he is a cousin of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
“As to the relationship of Congressman Barba to senator Bongbong Marcos, I think it does not, in any way, affect the instant impeachment complaint,” Garbin told a media forum.
Garbin, a lawyer, disagreed that impeachment is a “numbers game,” saying the committee always decides on the merits of the case before endorsing it to the plenary or dismissing it.
“We should stop saying that impeachment is just a numbers game. It’s not. We have rules to follow and we have to appreciate, observe due process and fairness,” he said.
The complaint, which was filed by Edwin Cordevilla through the help of pro-Marcos lawyer Larry Gadon, was endorsed by Barba last Monday after Marcos’ camp failed to force Leonen to inhibit from the electoral protest case he filed against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Cordevilla, secretary general of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government (FLAGG), is one of Barba’s constituents in the province’s second district.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said whoever filed the complaint is “immaterial” because the “motives for filing are not part of the proceedings.”
He said Leonen will be afforded all the time for him to defend himself and present evidence “so the decision will be really based on the merits of the case.”
Rodriguez said the determination of the form and substance of the impeachment complaint may start next year because the Congress will go on a Christmas break on Dec. 18.
He said the panel is still waiting for the complaint to be referred to the committee which will vote to determine of it is sufficient in form and substance, a test which will determine if the panel will continue to hear the complaint or dismiss it.
“In the hearing, we will afford all the opportunity to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to be able to answer the complaint and to be able to produce evidence on his behalf. We will make sure that this will be fair and objective,” he said.
A committee report and a resolution will be submitted to the plenary after the hearing and if there is substantial reason to proceed with the impeachment, Rodriguez said the House will decide whether to approve it or not.
Once approved by a constitutional vote of one-third of all members of the House, the resolution will be converted into the Articles of Impeachment and will be immediately transmitted to the Senate, which will act as an impeachment court.
The complaint accused Leonen of culpable violation of the Constitution for allegedly failing to dispose of at least 37 SC cases within 24 months as mandated by Sec 15 (1), Article VII, in relation to Section 16, Article III of the Constitution, “which mandates the prompt action and speedy disposition of cases.”
It also accused Leonen of “arbitrarily” delaying the resolution of cases pending before him as chair of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) since October 2019.
By failing to act on the cases pending before him in both the Supreme Court and the HRET, the complaint said Leonen has “clearly” betrayed public trust, stressing that his “incompetence and inefficiency, has caused the erosion of the public’s faith in our judicial system.”
Of these 34 HRET cases, three cases were assigned to Leonen, the complaint noted that two were dismissed for being moot without being resolved on the merits while one remains pending.
The complaint also accused Leonen of betrayal of public trust for allegedly failing to file his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) during his tenure as a professor at the University of the Philippines which the complaint said “negates the probity and integrity required of him as a member of the Judiciary.”
It echoed the news article claiming that while Leonen spent 22 years in UP, from 1989 until 2011, he only filed his SALNs for the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011 which, it said, means that he did ignored the law for 15 years, from 1989 to 2003, and 2008 to 2009.