• Group Files Impeachment Complaint Against Justice Leonen

    A GROUP that calls itself the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance-Maharlika on Monday filed before the House of Representatives an impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mario Victor F. Leonen for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

    Edwin Cordevilla, the Secretary General of FLAG — different from the older association of human-rights lawyers called FLAG — said the associate justice has been both “negligent and incompetent” for failing to dispose of 37 cases in the Supreme Court in contravention of the Constitutional mandate that cases should be decided within 24 months from the time it is submitted for resolution.

    “Justice Leonen is incompetent because he sat on dozens of cases in contravention of the Constitutional mandate,” Cordevilla said.

    “Respondent clearly lacks integrity because he failed to file his Statement of Assets and Liabilities [SALN] as required by law. He has betrayed public trust,” he added.

    Because of these supposed lapses, the complainant said Leonen must now be held accountable for his actions for the “betterment of the Judiciary and the future good of our country.”

    “Pursuant to the procedure laid down in Section 3, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution on Accountability of Public Officers, the undersigned Complainant hereby prays that this Verified Complaint for Impeachment be endorsed by the honorable members of the House of Representatives, referred to the proper Committee, which shall in turn submit its Report to the House,” the complaint read.

    “Complainant prays that the House gives due course to this Verified Complaint for Impeachment and transmit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate of the Philippines for trial,” it added.

    Thereafter, the complainant respectfully prays that the honorable members of the Senate conduct a trial forthwith and thereafter, render a judgment of conviction against Leonen.

    Atty. Larry Gadon, the lawyer of the complainant, said the impeachement complaint was endorsed by Rep. Angelo Barba of the Second District of Ilocos Norte.

    Morover, the group said all public officials are accountable to the people whether one is an elected official or appointed official.

    “The often quoted principle said sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them’ cannot and should not be taken lightly, Our Constitution provides a process for holding high officials accountable to the people and it is called impeacement,” the group said.

    “The New Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge shall uphold and promote independence, integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary. However, Associate Justice Leonen has violated, breached and simply Ignored all these basic tenets,” it added.

    Leonen was appointed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III as associate justice on November 21, 2012.

    Under the 1987, Constitution, the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.

    It also provides that the House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.

    A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution or endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within 10 session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter.

    Also, a vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary either to affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the Committee, or override its contrary resolution. The vote of each Member shall be recorded.

    In case the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment is filed by at least one-third of all the Members of the House, the same shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment, and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed.

    The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment. When sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the Philippines is on trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside, but shall not vote. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.

    Justice Leonen branded as “false” the issues being raised against him by his detractors in seeking his removal from the judiciary.

    Leonen immediately issued a statement following the filing of the impeachment complaint by Cordevilla.

    “Given the urgent and pressing needs of our people during the time of crises, we are confident that our leaders will do the right thing. Certainly, this may not be to attend to false issues raised by some for clearly personal or vindictive reasons,” Leonen said, while noting that his office has yet to receive a copy of the impeachment complaint.

    Leonen said his comment was based on the information received by his chambers that an impeachment complaint was filed before the House.

    “Regardless, we wish everyone the best for this season of kindness and compassion. May we all continue to help who are still truly in need,” Leonen added.

    It may be recalled that in 2018, the Supreme Court ousted then Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno following quo warranto proceedings that resulted in the nullification of her appointment as the chief magistrate.

    The quo warranto petition was filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida on the ground of Sereno’s failure to fully disclose her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

    The SC justices who voted for her ouster agreed that Sereno’s failure to file her SALNs as a clear indication of lack of integrity and dishonesty.

    Sereno was found to have violated the requirement of proven integrity for positions in the SC as required in the 1987 Constitution.

    Both Sereno and Leonen were appointees of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

    Image credits: Photo courtesy of Atty. Larry Gardon

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