The hearings on the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen will commence next year, Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said Wednesday as Congress is set to adjourn next week for the Holidays.
“I think there will be no more time. We will already have our recess sometime on December 18 (sic) so we don’t have any material time at this time,” Rodriguez, vice chair of the House Committee on Justice, said in a media forum.
Congress adjourns on Dec. 18 and resumes its session on January 18, 2021.
“So therefore probably it will reach next year for the determination of form and substance,” Rodriguez added.
As a matter of procedure, Rodriguez explained the impeachment complaint would be referred to Speaker Lord Allan Velasco after it was filed at the office of the House Secretary General. The Speaker’s Office has 10 days sessions days from receipt of the complaint to have it included in the order of business.
The complaint will then be referred to the Committee on Justice to determine the complaint’s “form and substance.”
“Probably we can decide on the form, we can decide on the substance. But the actual hearing of the committee will be next year,” Rodriguez said.
But Rodriguez gave assurances the committee “will afford Associate Justice Marvic Leonen all the time for him to be able to give his evidence.”
The impeachment complaint against Leonen, filed on Monday by Edwin Cordevilla, secretary general of the Filipino League of Advocates For Good Governance, stemmed from Leonen’s supposed culpable violation of the Constitution for allegedly failing to dispose of at least 37 cases within 24 months and delaying the resolution of cases pending before the House of Representative Electoral Tribunal.
Leonen was accused of betrayal of public trust when he allegedly failed to file his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) during his tenure at the University of the Philippines.
But Leonen cautioned Congress against attending to “false issues” while many Filipinos are in need. “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,” the justice said.
“Certainly, this may not be the time to attend to false issues raised by some for clearly personal or vindictive reasons,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez doubted that the endorsement of Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, cousin of former Senator Bongbong Marcos who has an electoral protest pending with the Supreme Court– will affect the House’s decision on the Leonen impeachment rap.
“Whoever filed it is immaterial because there is a right of everyone, a congressman to endorse. Motives of filing are not part of the proceedings,” Rodriguez said.
“Once these are filed, and the form and substance have been complied with, we’ll hear the case,” he added.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., vice chair of the justice panel, shared Rodriguez’s view.
“The relationship of Cong. Barba to Senator Bongbong Marcos, I think it does not, in any way, affect the instant impeachment complaint,” Garbin said.
“[The] members of the committee always decide on the merits of the case. We should stop saying that impeachment is just a numbers game. It’s not. We have rules to follow and we have to appreciate, observe due process and fairness,” he added.