A former lawmaker described as a veteran in impeachment cases against impeachable government officials will serve as lead counsel in good governance advocate Edwin Cordevilla's charges against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
In the first day of the House of Representatives’ Justice Committee hearing today, May 27, lawyer Matias "Mat" Defensor Jr. will lead Cordevilla’s legal team.
Defensor accepted the job in a “pro bono” agreement, he said in a statement.
Before he became a lawmaker in 2004, Defensor, who obtained his law degree from the University of the Philippines, was considered a giant in the legal profession.
Defensor was a representative of Quezon city’s third district from 2004 to 2007. He won another term in 2007 and served the House until 2010.
As a lawmaker, he became the head of the House Justice Committee, which handles and approves impeachment complaints filed by ordinary citizens.
This committee specifically finds out if there is “form” and “substance” to the complaints against impeachable officials of the government.
As former chief of the Committee on Justice and a practicing lawyer, Defensor has a deep grasp on the strategy and tactics on how he would win the impeachment case against Leonen, Cordevilla's team said.
Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon will stay as part of Cordevilla’s legal team, who will actively assist Defensor.
Defensor said in an interview that his team “will surely win” the impeachment complaint of Cordevilla so that Leonen would face trial in the Senate, which will in turn serve as an impeachment court.
Defensor stressed that on the issue of Leonen’s supposed violation of Statement of Assets and Liabilities Network (SALN) Law alone, Leonen should be booted out from the Supreme Court because he did not file his SALN 15 times as a member and dean of the College of Law of UP.
The former solon cited as basis for his optimistic view of the defeat of Leonen the dismissal of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona as top magistrate due to his failure to file his SALN on two occasions.
Also, then-chief magistrate Maria Lourdes Sereno’s high bench career was put to an end in 2018 after she was found guilty of not filing a SALN six times while a law professor at UP.
Defensor’s point is that violation of SALN Law is a strong legal offense than can end the career of a magistrate on the high bench.
Aside from not filing a SALN, Defensor also highlighted the charges of “culpable violation of Constitution” and “betrayal of public trust” slapped by Cordevilla against Leonen.
Cordevilla filed the impeachment complaint at the House in December 2020.
It was accepted and endorsed by Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Barba, who was convinced that Cordevilla’s complaint was sufficient in form and substance.
Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez also said this week that members of the House Justice Committee headed by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso would focus on the details on the pieces of evidence of the impeachment complaint against Leonen.
They would not look at any other issues of Leonen from other people and private companies who are waiting on the fate of their cases that have piled up at his docket at the Supreme Court, a few months after Leonen was appointed to the high bench in November 2012.