Just like a COVID-19 jab, junked complaint gives Leonen one year impeachment immunity

Published May 28, 2021, 1:45 PM

by Ben Rosario

Like most vaccines against the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the dismissal of the impeachment case filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen gives the magistrate one year immunity from being subjected to a similar complaint before the House of Representatives.

However, Leonen is not totally out of the woods until the Lower House votes to uphold the Committee on Justice decision to junk the complaint filed last December, 2020 by Edwin Cordevilla, On Thursday, May 27, the justice panel chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso dismissed Cordevilla following a 37-0 vote made by its members who found the complaint insufficient in form.

Deputy Minority Leader and Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said there is little doubt the unanimous committee on justice decision will not be upheld in the plenary voting.

“Based on what happened yesterday that it was a multi-partisan decision I firmly believe na hindi na mababaligtad iyon (it will no longer be reversed) especially we only have three session days before the sine die adjournment,” said Zarate during a Makabayan press conference on Friday, May 28.

However, in the 2017 case of resigned Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, the plenary voted 137-75-2 to reverse the justice committee report for the dismissal of the impeachment complaint filed against him following a claim made by his wife, Patricia, that he had kept unexplained wealth.

With the majority of congressmen voting to thumb down the justice panel’s decision and faced by the prospects of going through the impeachment trial in the Senate, Bautista decided to resign at the end of that year.

Under the Constitution, a vote of one third of the members of the Lower House can override the recommendation of the justice panel and in this case, result in the filing of Articles of Impeachment before the Senate against Leonen.

However, the SC justice will be immune from any impeachment attempt within from the time the justice committee acted on the complaint.

Asked if Cordevilla may still be allowed to seek a reconsideration of the justice panel’s decision, Zarate said he cannot.

The Bayan Muna solon explained that under House rules, an appeal for reconsideration on an issue that has been approved or rejected via majority vote may be given recourse only if sought by the lawmaker who supported and voted for the winning position.

Former Rep. Matias Defensor, Cordevilla’s chief legal counsel, said their team will study whether or not they will seek a reconsideration of the justice committee’s decision and whether such remedy is available to them.