MANILA, May 27 (Mabuhay) — The House Committee on Justice on Thursday junked the impeachment complaint filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

During a hearing, lawmakers argued that the complaint, filed by Edwin Cordevilla, secretary-general of the Filipino League of Advocates For Good Government on December 7, 2020, was based on hearsay.

Forty-four lawmakers voted “yes” to dismissing the complaint while two inhibited.

Representative Vicente “Ching” Veloso, panel chairperson, said the complaint would be returned to the House Secretary General within three session days with the explanation not only on its insufficiency but also on the fact that the committee had to dismiss the complaint. 

“Being hearsay and not based on authentic record, we cannot take this as a ground even on the question of verification on the matter of the court,” Veloso said.

“The verification failed to satisfy the requirement that the allegations of the complainant must be based on his personal knowledge or must be based on authentic records,” he added.

The lawmakers said the allegations were not based on personal knowledge and were not supported by authentic records.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said the complainant only relied on newspaper accounts as well as columnists’ opinions in filing his complaint. He pointed out that these were not authentic records and were “invariably hearsay.”

Section 3 of the House Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings states that the complaint’s verification should be based on the complainant’s “personal knowledge” or “authentic records.”

Deputy Speaker Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr., for his part, questioned the timing of the complaint lodged as the country is still facing the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are dying every day and we need all the time we have in Congress to legislate measures that will help our people fight this disease and our country to recover,” Abante said.

“Do we really need an impeachment during a pandemic? Is this really the right time to do this?” he added.

The committee secretariat said the complaint was dismissed only due to insufficiency in form, but Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate said it is already an outright dismissal.

“It was dismissed in form as it failed to comply with formality. If it’s verification is defective, it is an unsigned complaint so it is just a piece of paper, so the effect is outright dismissal to include substance,” Zarate told reporters.

In a statement, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the decision of the panel should be respected.

“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.

Cordevilla’s complaint was endorsed by Ilocos Norte Representative Angelo Marcos Barba, a cousin of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

When the complaint against the justice was filed last year, Marcos had a pending electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo, who defeated him in the 2016 elections, before the Supreme Court acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal. The PET already junked the poll protest.

Cordevilla has claimed that Leonen committed culpable violation of the Constitution for supposedly failing to dispose of at least 37 cases within 24 months.

According to the complainant, this was a violation of Section 16, Article III of the Constitution which mandates the speedy disposition of cases.

Cordevilla further alleged that Leonen had betrayed public trust when he failed to file his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth during his tenure at the University of the Philippines.

Under the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceeding, the grounds for impeachment include treason, bribery, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust.  (MNS)

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