Defensor questions House leadership’s handling of Leonen impeachment case

Published February 22, 2021, 4:40 PM

by Ben Rosario

Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Michael T. Defensor on Monday, February 22, questioned the leadership of the House of Representatives for the continued delay in carrying out the simple task of referring to the Committee on Justice the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Defensor then learned from the response of the House leadership that despite their regular plenary meeting in compliance with the calendar of session, the Lower House has in effect conducted only three regular sessions since December, 2021.

However, counting the days that congressmen met since the filing of  the impeachment complaint on December 7, 2021,  22 session days have actually been conducted.

Under the Constitution and the rules of impeachment of the Lower House, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has ten session days to refer the complaint to the justice panel chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso.

“It’s a simple question, there should be ten session days for the Office of the Speaker to commit it to the committee of justice. What is the status?” asked Defensor.

Deputy Speaker and Cavite Rep. Crisipin Remulla replied by explaining that the House was only on its “third session day” starting December until Monday, February 22.

“We have only adjourned twice before this session.  We are only on our third session day,” Remulla explained.

The situation about the impeachment case against Leonen has been previously explained by Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. 

On February 8, Rodriguez said only two session days have been counted since the impeachment case was filed because the leadership had only declared two adjournments. 

Since December 7, sessions were merely suspended, thus, all days covered until adjournment has been declared, are considered as only one session day.

Suspension of sessions are usually resorted to by the House leadership in order to ensure continued declaration of quorum even without a roll call.  This happens whenever there are important measures that are very significant such as a proposed General Appropriations Act.

On February 10,  lawyer Larry Gadon, counsel for impeachment complainant Edwin Cordevilla,  assailed the House leadership’s suspicious treatment of the Leonen complaint.

“Pending matters should have precedence over new business more so that the impeachment is an important business . The process of impeachment is laid down in the Constitution hence, showing its great importance,” stated Gadon.

“The Speaker appears to be leaning towards favoring Leonen,” Gadon said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Asked for the the speaker’s reaction, a media liaison officer of the House leader said the question should be directed to Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.

Romualdez’s office has yet to respond to requests for reaction on the issue.

“I don’t think Congressman Romualdez is the right person to explain the situation.  Neither the Constitution nor the House impeachment rules give any role for the majority Romualdez in addressing impeachment cases,” said Gadon.

Citing precedents, Gadon said this is the first time the Lower House has failed to act on an impeachment case with dispatch.   He recalled that not even former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez dared to delay action on the impeachment case filed by opposition Rep. Gary Alejano against President Rodrigo Duterte during the 17th Congress.