At least two Catholic bishops have joined calls for the dismissal of an impeachment complaint filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in the Philippine House of Representatives.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, national director of Caritas Philippines, called on legislators to dismiss the impeachment complaint, “which clearly has no merit.”
The prelate said legislators have more important issues to address than the removal from office of an official of the judiciary.
Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel in the southern Philippines also described the impeachment complaint filed against Justice Leonen as “malicious” and reeks of “self-interest.”
“I find malicious the filing of this complaint, and its timing suspect,” said the prelate. “It merely seeks, it seems to us, to remove a thorn in the side of certain personalities,” he added.
Bishop Casicas said there seems to be a concerted effort to bring down an “esteemed Justice” whose integrity is without question and whose contributions to social transformation are varied and many.
The prelate noted that before the impeachment complaint was filed in the House of Representatives last week, there was a move to remove Justice Leonen from a panel that hears the case questioning the result of the 2016 vice presidential race.
“This impeachment complaint again politicizes what is supposed to be an independent process in the adjudication of an electoral case,” said Bishop Casicas.
“This impeachment complaint once again disingenuously makes use of our democratic institutions merely to wrest power,” he said.
“Our young democracy is made fragile by complaints which are less legitimate grievances and more hollow charades,” said the prelate.
Bishop Bagaforo, meanwhile, said Congress should instead focus on legislations that will improve the lives of farmers, lessen climate vulnerability and risks, and strengthen the economy than entertain the impeachment complaint.
He said that during the pandemic “poverty has worsened” in the country. “Government’s inability to act prudently has a lot to do with it,” said the bishop.
Father Antonio Labiao Jr., executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, also said that the impeachment case filed against Justice Leonen has far less significance to the people.
“The House leadership needs to be prudent,” said the priest, adding that legislators should know “what really matters to the Filipino people at this time.”
“I believe that the impeachment (against the Supreme Court Justice) is not among them,” said Father Labiao.
He said more than 3.4 million Filipinos were affected by the series of typhoons and floods in recent weeks. “They are what matters,” said the priest.
An impeachment complaint has been filed against Justice Leonen last week allegedly for “culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust” when he allegedly failed to dispose of at least 37 cases in 24 months.
The complainants said the Supreme Court Justice showed “gross inefficiency as shown by the snail pace in which he resolves his cases.”
Justice Leonen expressed confidence that the complaint does not merit the attention of legislators.
“Given the urgent and pressing needs of our people during this time of crisis, we are confident that our leaders will do the right thing,” he said in a statement.
Bishop Bagaforo said that “while we demand from our government officials’ accountability, integrity and service of the highest standards, and that complaints against misconduct must be surfaced and acted upon, the aspiration for justice must only be used with pure intentions.”