House of Representatives

House justice panel begins Leonen impeachment hearing on May 27

Lian Buan
House justice panel begins Leonen impeachment hearing on May 27

IMPEACHMENT COMPLAINT. Dissenter justice Marvic Leonen faces an impeachment complaint.

Photo by Rappler

Under the rules, the House committee on justice will determine whether the complaint is sufficient in form and substance

The House committee on justice will begin hearing the impeachment complaint against the Supreme Court’s fiercest dissenter, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, on May 27.

This is a procedural step because under the rules of procedure in impeachment proceedings, all impeachment complaints endorsed by a lawmaker shall be referred to the committee on justice within 13 session days.

Despite these rules, it took the House five months to refer the complaint to the committee. The complaint was endorsed by Ilocos Norte 2nd District Representative Angelo Marcos Barba, cousin of  former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. 

Leonen was the ponente of the unanimous decision that junked Marcos’ electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

Under the rules, the justice committee will make an initial determination if the complaint is sufficient in form and substance, and then will decide on how to proceed.

In the impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte, the justice committee then chaired by the late Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali very quickly decided that the impeachment complaint was insufficient in substance.

It was a stark contrast to the impeachment complaint against former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, which took months of hours-long hearings, with magistrates coming to the Batasan in an odd display of infighting at the High Court. The Supreme Court ousted Sereno in an unprecedented 8-6 quo warranto vote.

The complaint against Leonen was filed by  Edwin Cordevilla, who identified himself as secretary-general of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government. He is represented by notorious lawyer Larry Gadon. Gadon filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno.

Among the grounds in the impeachment complaint is Leonen’s alleged missing Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) from when he was a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Only if the committee finds the complaint sufficient in form and substance, will the subject be required to answer the allegations. This never happened to Duterte.

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The complaint against Leonen, though it’s based on the same SALN argument, is not seen as potent as the complaint against Sereno.

In an earlier interview, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) national president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said there didn’t seem to be the same “enthusiasm” on the part of lawmakers to pursue the complaint.

Some factors cited were the fact that Leonen is not a chief justice like Sereno, and that there didn’tt seem to be clear political signals to encourage lawmakers.

Hundreds of lawyers and law professors have signed several manifestos of support for Leonen, calling the complaint “a palpable assault on judicial independence.” –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.