Ex-SC chief says impeach raps vs Leonen ‘wobbly’

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    FORMER chief justice Artemio Panganiban yesterday said the impeachment complaint filed before the House of Representatives against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen is unlikely to move forward because it stands on “wobbly grounds.”

    Speaking on ANC News, Panganiban said the complainant produced no proof or evidence to back his case, including Leonen’s alleged failure to file his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) when he was still teaching at the state-run University of the Philippines.

    “I think it will have difficulty passing because the grounds are wobbly in my opinion,” Panganiban, who served as the 21st chief justice from December 2005 to December 2006, said.

    “The first ground says Justice Leonen delayed the resolution of cases assigned to him but he (complainant) has not produced evidence to that in the first place,” he added.

    The complaint, which was endorsed by Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, accused Leonen of failing to resolve 37 cases within 24 months in violation of the constitutional provision requiring justices to resolve cases within two years from the date it was submitted to the SC.

    But Panganiban said a previous SC ruling on the matter made it clear that the 24-month timeline is not mandatory.

    “There is a decision of the Supreme Court saying the two year or 24 months to be exact provision in the Constitution is directory, not mandatory,” the former chief justice explained.

    As to the second ground which is the alleged failure of Leonen to resolve cases pending before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, Panganiban said the former cannot be accused of delaying the resolution of cases since “he has sat as chairperson of the HRET for less than 24 months.”

    Regarding Leonen’s SALNs, Panganiban said there was also “no conclusive proof” that the former failed to file his SALNs when he was still at UP.

    “Again, there was no conclusive proof of that,” he said, adding that the allegations raised in the impeachment complaint do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

    Panganiban said he believes that the complaint was filed as a fishing expedition to use the “coercive power” of the House committee on justice to compel Leonen to produce evidence that can be used against his interest.

    He cautioned against the use of the impeachment process for political purposes, stressing that it should be used sparingly when the grounds cited or presented really constituted impeachable offenses.

    Leonen remained mum on the specific allegations cited in the impeachment complaint but in a statement he released after it was filed, he said he is confident that House leaders would prioritize more pressing things rather than indulging in false issues raised for personal and vindictive reasons.