Ex-chief justice says impeachment rap vs Leonen on ‘wobbly’ ground

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) – December 16, 2020 – 2:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said Wednesday that the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen is not likely to fly as it is standing on “wobbly” grounds.

In an interview with ANC’s “Matters of Fact,” Panganiban said the ouster rap “will have difficulty passing because the grounds are wobbly.”

The impeachment complaint against Leonen was filed by controversial lawyer Larry Gadon who previously moved to have justice ousted through quo warranto. In  his latest move, Gadon accused the magistrate of failing to dispose cases that amount to violating the Constitution and betrayal of public trust over his supposed non-filing of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

‘Two-year period for cases not mandatory’

But Panganiban pointed out accusers Edwin Cordevilla of “Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government and Gadon did not produce evidence to back their claim of Leonen’s failure to dispose 37 cases.

Assuming that their accusation is true, the former chief justice noted that the SC came out with a ruling that states that the two-year disposal of cases in the Constitution is merely “directory, not mandatory.”

Panganiban added there is also “non-conclusive proof” that Leonen failed to file 15 SALNs when he was still a law professor at the University of the Philippines.

Gadon and Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier asked the SC for copies of Leonen’s SALN for the purpose of filing a quo warranto petition, but the tribunal rejected their request.

The former chief justice added that, in his view, impeachment process has “been cheapened in the sense that it is raised even if the grounds are not very clear, not very justificable, not very apt for the process.”

“Impeachment is such a high proceeding, that it should be used sparingly only when the ground is secure and sure to respect the independence of the Judiciary,” Panganiban added.

Support for Leonen continues to pour in

Meanwhile the Far Eastern University Institute of Law, in a statement, backed Leonen amid the ouster rap and called on House members to junk the complaint.

“We, the professors of the FEU Institute of Law, believe and are confident that [Leonen] is an honorable, intelligent, responsible and [honest] justice of the SC,” they said in Filipino.

“Let us not let them to tarnish the integrity of the Judiciary… We are calling on the lower chamber of the Congress to immediately throw out the impeachment complaint against [Leonen],” they added.

Earlier this week, more than 130 members of the faculty of the UP College of Law also issued a statement of support for Leonen as they called for the dismissal of the ouster bid they called “baseless.”

“We must not allow this latest assault to send our nation further down the dark road, especially while a global pandemic still hangs over all our heads and threatens to bring our society into despair and destitution,” they said.

Leonen, for his part, said he trusts the lawmakers of the House will “do the right thing.”

He added: “Given the urgent and pressing needs of our people during this time of crises, we are confident that our leaders will do the right thing.”

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