SC told: Don’t violate Charter in Leonen case


    THE Supreme Court should not commit the same constitutional violation of entertaining a quo warranto petition, if one is filed, against Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, like it did in the case of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, a vice chair of the House committee on justice said yesterday.

    Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the House of Representatives has the exclusive power to remove an impeachable official, so it should not entertain a quo warranto petition if ever one is filed against Leonen.

    That (another quo warranto case) cannot happen (again) because the Constitution is very clear. Impeachable officials like Supreme Court associate justices can only be removed by impeachment and the Constitution is supreme over the rules of court, definitely,» Rodriguez, a veteran lawyer, told ANC.

    Sereno was ousted by her own colleagues in 2018 through a quo warranto petition that was filed while an impeachment complaint against her was being heard by the House.

    Rodriguez said the Supreme Court committed a “mistake” when it proceeded with the quo warranto case especially since House was already hearing the impeachment complaint against Sereno whose appointment was nullified by the SC even while she was facing an impeachment complaint at the House.

    He said this is why the House will insist on the constitutional provision which states that Congress has the exclusive power and jurisdiction «to be able to determine whether an official, who is impeachable, there is basis for the sending of the complaint and the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate.»

    «So we will insist on that. This committee with our chairman justice (Leyte Rep.) Ching (Vicente) Veloso, we will ensure that we follow the Constitution this time,» Rodriguez said.

    «Impeachable officials like Supreme Court associate justices can only be removed by impeachment. And the Constitution is supreme over the Rules of Court, definitely.»

    Like in Sereno›s case, Leonen is accused of betrayal of public trust for failing to file his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for 15 years during his tenure as a lecturer at the University of the Philippines.

    Rodriguez said the allegation of culpable violation of the Constitution for alleged «incompetence» is not a ground for impeachment.

    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.»

    Rodriguez said the committee will decide based on the merits of the case and «not on motives (behind the filing).»

    «There are innuendos that this is political… the motives are not very clear… That’s something beyond the committee,» said Rodriguez.

    He 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 Sen. Ferdinand «Bongbong» Marcos Jr.

    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.

    The Marcos camp has denied any involvement in the impeachment complaint.

    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.

    It was Gadon who filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno.

    Leonen’s classmates from the University of the Philippines College of Law expressed their «unqualified support» to the magistrate.

    “We know that the sterling record of the good Justice will be recognized in whatever proceedings that may ensue. More importantly, we believe that the alleged acts or omissions ascribed to him do not rise to the level of impeachable offense under our Constitution: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft or corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust,» they said in a statement.

    At the same time, they asked the public to determine for themselves what interests are behind the move to impeach Leonen and for members of Congress to exercise their prerogatives with great restraint and judicious temperament. — With Ashzel Hachero