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Voting 44-0, House Justice committee throws out impeachment complaint against Leonen

Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen

THE House Committee on Justice on Thursday unanimously dismissed the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mario Victor F. Leonen after it was found to be insufficient in form.

Voting 44-0, the House committee approved the motion for the “outright dismissal” of the impeachment complaint against Leonen, which was filed by a group called Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance-Maharlika.

Several lawmakers, including the committee’s chairman Leyte 3rd District Rep. Vicente Veloso III and Deputy Speaker Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, said the grounds of the complaint “lacked sufficiency in form as these are founded on hearsay and published news articles.”

Furthermore, the lawmakers present at the panel’s deliberation noted that the documents submitted by the complainant to the panel were neither authenticated nor certified as true copies.

Among the lawmakers who argued that the 201-page complaint did not comply with the rules of the chamber in impeachment proceedings were Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate and Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel C. Lagman.

The petitioning group, led by its secretary general Edwin Cordevilla, filed the complaint against Leonen for allegedly being “negligent and incompetent.”

The group based its allegations on these grounds: first, for failing to dispose of 37 cases within 24 months; second, delaying the resolution of cases pending before him as chairman of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET); and for failing to file his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) for a total of 15 years during his stint at the University of the Philippines.

Respect the decision

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against Leonen would now allow lawmakers to “focus more” on passing legislation to help the country recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The House Committee on Justice has spoken and we must respect its decision. With the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against Justice Leonen, Congress can now focus more on the task at hand, which is to produce legislation that would further help our kababayans and the economy recover from the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Velasco said in a statement on Thursday.

In his manifestation, Zarate said: “At a time like this, when Congress should focus on more important matters,  like the pandemic responses,  pandemic interventions;  when our people are suffering from the grave crisis aggravated by this pandemic; when  more than a million people of our kababayans are already afflicted by this Covid-19; when  more than 20,000  have died of this Covid-19,  we should focus our energy as a House,  as a Committee,  on these more pressing problems.”

Atty. Larry Gadon, the lawyer of the complainant, criticized the House Committee on Justice for its “double standard” in handling the case against Leonen, citing the proceedings of the quo warranto petition against former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Gadon explained that the same House panel allowed photocopies of documents as evidence in the quo warranto petition against Sereno while issuing a subpoena on the concerned agencies holding the certified true copies of the documents.

Gadon said the House oanel should have summoned the concerned issuing agencies, like the Supreme Court and University of the Philippines, to bring the certified true copies since these agencies do not issue certified true copies to the public.

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