Impeachment rap vs Leonen prompts renewed calls for Duterte’s wealth declaration

December 9, 2020 - 2:34 PM
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on October 5, 2020. (Presidential photo/Simeon Celi)

Calls for President Rodrigo Duterte to release his wealth declaration document were renewed after an impeachment complaint was filed against Associate Justice Marvic Leonen over the same complaint.

Lawyer Larry Gadon filed an impeachment complaint against Leonen before the House of Representatives on Monday, December 7 after he failed to secure copies of the latter’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

This was endorsed by Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba (Ilocos Norte), the cousin of defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Gadon represents Edwin Cordevilla, the secretary general of a group called Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government.

Based on the complaint, Cordevilla made two main accusations against the justice:

  1. Supposed failure to file his SALNs

This was based on a column published in The Manila Times and a July 2018 memorandum from the Presidential Communications Operations Office that stated Leonen’s failure to submit SALNs when he was a professor at the University of the Philippines.

The PCOO memorandum was obtained from a Freedom of Information request.

  1. Supposed failure to dispose 37 cases within two years

Cordevilla alleged that Leonen violated the constitutional mandate on the prompt, speedy resolution of cases before the high court and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. Leonen is currently the tribunal’s chairperson.

In line with these accusations, Cordevilla stated:

“Respondent (Leonen) is guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. Therefore, he should not be allowed to continue in office.”

Aside from Gadon, who was a vocal supporter of the Marcos family, Calida also sought to remove Leonen from office through a quo warranto petition, the same legal remedy he filed to oust former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in 2018.

However, the Supreme Court denied Calida’s request to obtain the Leonen’s SALNs to be used for making the petition.

Show us your SALN

The word “SALN” trended briefly on Twitter following reports of the impeachment rap against Leonen.

Some Twitter users argued that the same treatment should be applied to President Rodrigo Duterte, who have yet to release his SALN for two years.

The last time Duterte disclosed his wealth was in 2017, unlike his predecessors.

“If the ground for impeachment of Justice Leonen is non filling of SALN, then Duterte SHOULD BE impeached too,” one Twitter user wrote.

“The hypocrisy for trying to impeach AJ Leonen because of his SALN but excuses and defends Duterte for his non-release of his own SALN,” another wrote.

In a tweet on the same day, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism noted that disclosure of SALNs is mandated by law. It also used the hashtag #ShowUsYourSALN in the tweet.

“By law, actual copies of SALNs should be open for public inspection at reasonable hours or available for copying after 10 working days from the time they are filed,” it said.

This provision was stated on the Section 8 of the Republic Act No. 6713, or the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”

However, last September, Ombudsman Samuel Martires issued a memorandum that citizens can only access SALNs by fulfilling certain conditions.

RELATED: #ShowUsYourSALN: Calls for release of Duterte’s SALN launched after order to probe gov’t corruption

Veteran journalist Inday Espina Varona, meanwhile, questioned the motive behind the impeachment effort against Leonen.

“Marvic Leonen is one Justice in a Supreme Court overwhelmed by Duterte appointees. Takot pa sila? Impeachment effort? It’s not the case outcome they fear… it’s the spirit of dissent and independence,” Varona said.

No Marcos involvement?

These developments came after Leonen became the member in-charge of the poll protest Marcos filed against Vice President Leni Robredo due to his loss in 2016.

Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriquez, however, denied the former senator’s involvement with impeachment complaint.

“We refrain from commenting on an event or case where we are not a party as it is inappropriate for anyone to make wild accusation on something that they have no basic comprehension of the allegations, have not read the complaint and are just but the usual bally hoos,” Rodriquez said.

Calida also previously filed a motion to support Marcos’ bid to have Leonen inhibit from his case.

Marcos also distanced himself from the solicitor general and denied discussing the case with the latter.

Gadon likewise denied to reporters any connection with the electoral case.

“The case of the PET of BBM has not been mentioned here. There’s no connection. Cong. Barba endorsed this because complainant is a constituent in his own district. That’s the only connection,” he said.