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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Unanimous dismissal

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Unanimous dismissal

After the fast-track ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice through a mere quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, people thought the same fate awaited Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

The attempt to oust Leonen was set in motion amid a killer pandemic, with persons identified with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. behind the filing of the impeachment complaint. Leonen was in charge of the electoral protest filed before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal by Marcos against Leni Robredo over the vice presidential race in 2016. Last February, the PET unanimously threw out the protest “for lack of merit” and upheld Robredo’s victory. Leonen penned the decision.

Last Thursday at the House of Representatives, the committee on justice unanimously junked the impeachment complaint filed against Leonen by Edwin Cordevilla, secretary-general of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance–Maharlika. Marcos’ cousin, Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos-Barba, had endorsed the complaint. Cordevilla is a townmate and constituent of Barba.

The House committee found the complaint insufficient in both form and substance, with the accusations based largely on hearsay supported by news clippings and opinion articles. Committee chair Rep. Vicente Veloso of Leyte’s 3rd district called for a vote to dismiss the complaint outright after only two hours of discussions.

Leonen was accused of failure to resolve 82 cases in the Supreme Court within the 24 months stipulated in the Constitution. He was also accused of failing to file his annual statement of assets, liabilities and net worth or SALN from when he was a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the constitutional requirement on the resolution of cases by the Supreme Court is not mandatory. He also pointed out that the failure to file SALNs occurred before Leonen was appointed to the SC and is therefore not an impeachable offense. Lagman said the House action on the complaint “would foreclose malevolent searches for bygone skeletons in distant closets.”

There’s hope for the House after all. Whether the case will discourage similar efforts against other members of the Supreme Court, however, remains to be seen. In the meantime, the House can focus fully on the many urgent tasks at hand, starting with measures to improve the response to the COVID pandemic.

MARIA LOURDES SERENO

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