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Impeachment raps filed vs Leonen

Marvic Leonen
Associate Justice Mario Victor Leonen

IMPEACHMENT charges were filed yesterday before the House of Representatives by the Filipino league of Advocates for Good Governance – MAHARLIKA (FLAG – MAHARLIKA) against Associate Justice Mario Victor Leonen for the supposed deliberate violation of the 1987 Constitution.

The 40 -page “verified complaint for impeachment” was personally filed by Edwin M. Cordevilla, FLAG – MAHARLIKA Secretary – General, which was officially accepted and endorsed by Ilocos Norte Second District Rep. Angelo Barba.

Cordevilla was accompanied by his legal counsel, Atty. Larry Gadon.

In his one-page “resolution of endorsement”, Barba stressed that “I resolve to endorse, as I hereby resolve, … the verified Complaint for impeachment of Mr. Edwin M. Cordevilla against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mario Victor Leonen and strongly recommend that the same be given due course by the House of Representatives”.

Leonen is the third highest member of the high bench.

Barba said that he “examined the… verified Complaint and found the same to be sufficient in form and substance”, which extremely convinced him to accept and endorse Cordevilla’s charges against Leonen.

A minimum of 101 votes (or 1/3 of the whole membership of the House) that endorse Barba’s endorsement on Leonen’s impeachment is needed to elevate the case to the Senate that will serve as the impeachment court.

Cordevilla pointed out that Leonen has committed a “culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust”.

The FLAG – MAHARLIKA official was referring to Leonen’s extremely snail-paced decisions on 82 pending cases that includes 37 “aging” cases and the non-filing of Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).

Leonen got the 82 cases after they raffled off to him every after the filing of each case at the highest court.

Many of the pending cases were filed in his early years in the court like the “Julie Parcon Song versus Lilia B. Parcon” case (January 10,2013), the “Gemma dela Cruz versus Manila Electric Company” case (May 2,2014) and more.

Also included are the forfeiture charges on the wealth of business magnate Lucio Tan and former government officials and politicians closed to former President Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III.

Cordevilla said the pending cases and failure to file SALN were violations of the Constitution.

Leonen’s inaction on 82 cases since January 2013 was opposed to Section 15, Article VIII in relation to Section 16, Article III of the Constitution.

The said constitutional provision clearly mandates any official of the court to ensure a “prompt action and speedy disposition of cases” assigned to the former.

The judge of the case is obliged to release a decision on all the cases assigned to him within 24 months as stipulated in the Constitution.

Leonen, being a member of the highest court of the country is strongly expected to abide and carry out the marching order of the Constitution.

The Constitution is the fundamental law of the country.

Cordevilla averred that Leonen violated the Constitution, specifically the latter’s Section 17, Article XI, for his failure to file his SALN for 15 years while serving as law professor at the University of the Philippines – College of Law because it tackles the issue of “integrity”.

“If we are to follow Section 17, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, it is also clear that respondent violated the Constitution by failing to file his SALN for 15 years”, Cordevilla said.

Based on record, Leonen failed to file his SALN from 1989 to 2003 and 2008 to 2009.

Leonen started to work at UP – College of Law in 1989 that lasted until July 2010 after Aquino III took him as the government’s chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiators.

Aquino appointed Leonen to the Supreme Court on November 29,2012.

Apart from setting aside the Constitution on SALN issue, Leonen specifically violated the Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Official and employees on the issue”, Cordevilla said.

But, it appears that the most “vital” issue on the SALN was the lack of integrity of Leonen.

This strongly affects Leonen’s integrity, which was imposed by the Constitution itself as a requirement for a public official.

This was also the very issue where the big majority of the high bench booted out Maria Lourdes Sereno from being the Supreme Court Chief Justice in May 2018.

Sereno failed to file her SALN for six years while serving as law professor at the UP – College of Law.

Cordevilla made it clear in the FLAG – MAHARLIKA press statement released to the media that “All public officials are accountable to the people whether one is an elected official or appointed official. The often quoted principle stating that “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 IMPEACHMENT.”

“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”, the FLAG – MAHARLIKA official averred.

In a separate interview, Cordevilla explained that he decided to slap Leonen with impeachment complaints at the lower chamber because “based on my readings and appreciation of available documents, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that Associate Justice Leonen doesn’t deserve to stay even a day more as a magistrate of the High Court. He is shamelessly the very destruction of justice in the judiciary, [as a whole]”.

The filing of the impeachment by the FLAG – MAHARLIKA , headed by Cordevilla, is guaranteed by the Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, of which the purpose is to boot out a Supreme Court magistrate.

The other way, which happened to Sereno, was through the “quo warranto” petition to the Supreme Court.

In a statement, Leonen urged public officials to always do the right thing in the appreciation of the impeachment complaint.

“Given the urgent and pressing needs of our people during this 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,” said Leonen.

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