Supreme Court of the Philippines

Leonen’s supporters slam impeachment complaint, vouch for his integrity

JC Gotinga

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ASSOCIATE JUSTICE. Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen delivers a speech on June 30, 2020.

screenshot from Supreme Court livestream

'We witnessed Justice Leonen’s idealism, probity, deep integrity, high professional work ethic, and love for the law as an instrument of justice rather than oppression,' say his supporters

Nearly a hundred of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen’s colleagues, friends, and former students released a statement on December 10, Human Rights Day, denouncing an impeachment complaint filed recently against the Supreme Court magistrate, and vouching for his integrity.

In their statement of support for Leonen, lawyers, advocates, and indigenous leaders said the impeachment complaint “cannot be allowed to pass,” as it is a “direct attack on the independence and integrity of the Supreme Court.”

“This integrity relies on speaking truth to power and a deep understanding of the law as an instrument for equity, justice, and human rights, which Justice Leonen embodied, and continues to embody, in his work with impoverished communities, as a law professor and dean, as a peace negotiator, and as a respected member of the highest Court of the land,” Leonen’s supporters wrote.

“The filing of an impeachment complaint against Justice Leonen before the House of Representatives is an international embarrassment given that the Philippines created the first functioning legal system in Asia based on due process,” they added.

The group enumerated Leonen’s many endeavors and achievements since the 1980s, belying as “an extreme falsity” the impeachment complainant’s claim that Leonen is inexperienced. They cited his extensive work leading the University of the Philippines College of Law, advocating farmers’ and peasants’ rights, defending indigenous peoples and human rights victims, and appearances “at all levels of courts.”

Before joining the Supreme Court, Leonen argued many groundbreaking cases before the high tribunal and won several of them, his supporters added.

“We witnessed Justice Leonen’s idealism, probity, deep integrity, high professional work ethic, and love for the law as an instrument of justice rather than oppression. Justice Leonen continues to be a visionary leader, deeply committed to helping the marginalized, oppressed, and unrepresented.  He inspired us to maximize and utilize our potential to be of service to local Filipino communities, to help them find their voice,” Leonen’s supporters said.

They likened Leonen to the late Senator Jose W. Diokno, “whom many consider the country’s greatest lawyer.”

A group that calls itself the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government filed an impeachment complaint against Leonen with the House of Representatives last Monday, December 7.

The complainants claimed Leonen is unfit to be in the Supreme Court, that he violated the Constitution for failing to dispose of a certain number of cases within a period, for allegedly failing to submit 15 years’ worth of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth when he was an academician at UP, and that he had been biased for former President Benigno Aquino III and against President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ilocos Norte 2nd District Representative Angelo Marcos Barba endorsed the impeachment complaint, making it eligible for consideration by the House.

Marcos Barba is cousin to former Senator Bongbong Marcos who, in November, sought Leonen’s inhibition from his electoral protest case against Vice President Leni Robredo.

Citing Leonen’s position on past cases and issues involving the Marcos family, Bongbong said the magistrate might use the electoral protest “to exact vengeance.”

The Supreme Court dismissed Marcos’ petition on November 17. –

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.