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Justice Leonen faces impeachment case

AN IMPEACHMENT complaint has been filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mario Victor F. Leonen at the House of Representatives.

The complaint was filed by Edwin M. Cordevilla, secretary general of Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government, citing violation of the Constitution due to the number of pending cases assigned to the high court justice, and for failing to file his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

Mr. Cordevilla, assisted by lawyer Lorenzo G. Gadon, said based on a newspaper article published by the Manila Times, 37 of the pending cases were assigned to Mr. Leonen several years ago, violating the Constitution and internal rules of the court which directs all justices to resolve cases within 24 months.

“Respondent failed to consider the implications of these prolonged delays in the lives of the litigants,” the complaint read.

He also claimed that Mr. Leonen’s “incompetence and inefficiency” were shown in  the delayed resolution of 34 cases at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, which he chairs.

Mr. Leonen also allegedly betrayed public trust for failing to file his SALN for 15 years when he was a professor at the University of the Philippines, citing also a newspaper column.

“Respondent, in failing to submit his SALNs for 15 years, is guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust. He is unfit to be a member of the Judiciary and must accordingly be removed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court,” the complaint read.

The complainant also said that Mr. Leonen, who was appointed by former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, was partial with his decisions during the Aquino administration and is now “against the current administration.”

He noted Mr. Leonen’s dissent on several cases, including the burial of late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and the ousting of former chief justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, among others.

Ms. Sereno was removed from her post through quo warranto in 2018 for failing to submit her SALNs.

Mr. Leonen, in a statement on Monday, said he is confident that the government “will do the right thing.”

“Given the urgent and pressing needs of our people during this time of crises, we are confident that our leaders will do the right things,” he said in a statement.

Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Angelo M. Barba, who endorsed the impeachment complaint, said he did so because the complainant hails from his district and he “believes” in the allegations.

Mang Ed Cordevilla came to me, and as a constituent in my district, I entertained him. I read his complaint, I believed in it. That’s why I’m here as his congressman and I accompanied him,” Mr. Barba told reporters Monday.

Mr. Barba is a nephew of the late dictator and first cousin of former senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who earlier filed a motion for inhibition against Mr. Leonen in his vice presidential electoral protest.

The inhibition petition has been junked by the Supreme Court.

House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen S. Paduano, who represents the Abang Lingkod party-list, assured that the minority bloc will perform its constitutionally-mandated duty in the impeachment process.

“In so doing, we will ensure that in the determination of sufficiency in form and substance, the Rules of Impeachment will be strictly followed to the letter,” he said. He also called on the House justice committee to “exercise prudence and fairness.”

House Minority Deputy Leader Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, on the other hand, said the impeachment is an “all out war against democracy.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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