This is the question that the House of Representatives will have to answer after lawyer Larry Gadon filed an impeachment charge against Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
The complaint alleged that Leonen “is unfit to be a member of the judiciary and must be accordingly removed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.” The complaint cited Leonen’s alleged failure to file his Statement of Assets and Liabilities or SALN and supposed delays in resolution of cases, including the ones pending before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, where Leonen serves as chairman.
The issue of SALN is a recurring disease that has caused the removal of two chief justices, the late Chief Justice Renato Corona and Maria Lourdes Sereno. Corona, an appointee of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was ousted on May 29, 2012 after a high-profile impeachment proceeding at the Senate orchestrated by former President Benigno Aquino III.
Sereno’s peers in the Supreme Court voted to oust her on May 11, 2018 after a quo warranto petition was filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
It is not difficult to deduce that politics has a part in the move to oust Justice Leonen. Ilocos Norte Representative Angelo Marcos Barba, a cousin of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, has endorsed the complaint against Leonen. Marcos has a pending poll protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
There is a chilling reality that the highest court in the land is being used as a battleground by politicians who want to exert their influence in the court. This was clearly the pattern in the ouster of Corona and Sereno, and this could be repeated in the case of Leonen.
Of course, there are those who have questioned Leonen’s entry into the high court. He has no judicial experience, not even as a judge of a municipal court. Leonen was dean of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines before he was appointed by Aquino as the chief peace negotiator of the government in the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It was from there that Aquino appointed him to the supreme court.
Will the House allow Leonen to remain in the high court or will he be returned to his first love: teaching and environmental activism?