VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Gadon makes wrong claim on Leonen’s qualifications as SC associate justice

Read this fact check in Filipino

Lawyer Lorenzo "Larry" Gadon, a self-confessed Marcos loyalist, wrongly claimed that Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen had "no experience" in litigation, and was thus "not qualified" for his position.

STATEMENT

In an interview on Dec. 8 on ABS-CBN News Channel’s (ANC) Matters of Fact, Gadon justified the impeachment complaint he filed on behalf of a client against Leonen before the House of Representatives that same day. He said:

"He (Leonen) has no experience in litigation. He has no experience in judiciary (sic). He has no equivalent experience in the government to be appointed as a Supreme Court Associate Justice."

Source: ABS-CBN News Youtube Channel, Lawyer Gadon, of 'bobo' fame, claims he's more qualified than Justice Leonen | ANC, Dec. 8, 2020 watch from 13:27 to 13:45.

Gadon — who, in 2019, was suspended from legal practice for three months due to “abusive and intemperate language” — alleged that the associate justice, whom he called “incompetent,” was “ramped” into the SC by former President Benigno Aquino III.

FACT

Prior to his appointment to the SC as its 172nd associate justice on Nov. 21, 2012, Leonen had over 24 years of legal experience, as cited in his biography in the SC’s 2012 Annual Report.

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This included serving as counsel in a number of landmark cases before the high court, such as in Cruz vs. NCIP, et. al, where he argued on behalf of indigenous communities on the constitutionality of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. The petition, which contested some of the law’s provisions, was dismissed after the high court again reached a tied vote of 7-7 during its second deliberation of the case.

Leonen also represented a B’laan farming community in questioning the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995. In January 2004, the high court ruled in favor of the petitioners, voting to nullify certain provisions of the law. But in December that year, the SC ”reverse[d] and set aside” its decision when it granted separate motions for reconsideration filed by the respondents in the case.

The associate justice also provided legal assistance to “upland rural poor and indigenous peoples communities” as one of the three founders and former executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center - Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK), established in 1987.

Art. 8, Sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution requires that a member of the SC must be a natural-born citizen, be at least 40 years old, and have no less than 15 years of service as judge of a lower court or of legal practice in the country.

It said a member of the judiciary “must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.”

In early November 2012, Leonen, then the government’s chief peace negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was reportedly among the “top” nominees in the shortlist submitted to Aquino by the Judicial and Bar Council, the body mandated to oversee the selection of nominees for appointments in the judiciary.

The JBC — an eight-member body with representatives from the three branches of government, and members of academe and the private sector, among others — was created under the 1987 Constitution “in response to the public clamor in favor of eliminating politics in the appointment of judges.”

It follows a seven-step vetting process in selecting nominees for appointments, including for the posts of SC associate justice and the chief justice. It invites members of the public to "inform the Council...of any complaint or derogatory information against the applicants" for the position.

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The process culminates with the president selecting an appointee from the JBC’s shortlist, which is usually made up of five to six names.

Apart from his legal experience, Leonen also held multiple administrative positions at the University of the Philippines (UP), serving as its vice president for legal affairs from 2005 to 2008, and dean of the UP College of Law from 2008 to 2011.

The impeachment complaint against the associate justice was filed by private complainant Edwin Cordevilla, whom Gadon represents, and has been endorsed in the House by Ilocos Norte 2nd district Rep. Angelo Barba, cousin of defeated 2016 vice presidential candidate and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sen. Imee Marcos.

Leonen is currently the justice in charge of the election protest Bongbong Marcos filed against Vice President Leni Robredo at the SC, which sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

In November, the Marcos camp and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) separately filed motions asking the associate justice to inhibit from the case, which the PET unanimously denied.

The previous month, the high court similarly quashed the request of the OSG and Gadon for copies of Leonen’s statement of net worth, assets and liabilities (SALN) to be used for a quo warranto petition.

Gadon, who ran and lost in the 2019 senatorial race, is known for previously filing an impeachment complaint against former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was eventually ousted through a quo warranto petition in 2018.

Under the 1987 Constitution, members of the SC may be removed from office on impeachment for culpable violation of the constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust, or other high crimes. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: A brief history of impeachment in the Philippines).

Only one justice in the high court has been impeached: the late chief justice Renato Corona in 2011 for committing culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Impeachment of the chief justice, explained)

Leonen, at 57, is expected to serve in the SC until December 2032.


Sources

Larry Gadon Official Facebook Page, Anong Sabi ni Senator Imee, March 4, 2020

Supreme Court, Helen Joselina H. Mendoza Vs. Atty. Lorenzo G. Gadon, June 26, 2019

ABS-CBN News Youtube Channel, Lawyer Gadon, of 'bobo' fame, claims he's more qualified than Justice Leonen | ANC, Dec. 7, 2020

RTV Malacañang Official Youtube Channel, Oath Taking Ceremony of Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen 11/21/2012, Nov. 21, 2012

Supreme Court of the Philippines, Supreme Court Annual Report (2012), Accessed Dec. 11, 2020

Supreme Court of the Philippines E-Library, Cruz vs. NCIP, Dec. 6, 2000

Supreme Court of the Philippines E-Library, La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Association, Inc. vs. Ramos, et al., Dec. 1, 2004

Supreme Court of the Philippines, Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Accessed Dec. 8, 2020

Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center - Kasama sa Kalikasan, About Us, Accessed Dec. 10, 2020

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Article VIII: Judicial Department, Accessed Dec. 11, 2020

RTV Malacañang Official Youtube Channel, Part 5 of 6: PNoy SONA 2010, Sep. 13, 2011

Philstar.com, Leonen tops JBC shortlist for SC, Nov. 8, 2012

ABS-CBN News, Leonen, 6 others make it to JBC shortlist, Nov. 7, 2012

Rappler, CA Justice Reyes: Dark horse in the SC race?, Nov. 20, 2012

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Briefer: The Judicial and Bar Council, Accessed Dec. 11, 2020

Judicial and Bar Council, Background of the creation of the Judicial and Bar Council, Accessed Dec. 11, 2020

Judicial and Bar Council, The Council, Accessed Dec. 14, 2020

Record of the Constitutional Commission Volume I, page 487, Accessed Dec. 11, 2020

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Briefer: The Judicial and Bar Council, Accessed Dec. 11, 2020

University of the Philippines Gazette, January to March 2005, Accessed Dec. 12, 2020

University of the Philippines Gazette, January to March 2008, Accessed Dec. 12, 2020

University of the Philippines Gazette, April to June 2011, Accessed Dec. 12, 2020

ABS-CBN News, SC justice Leonen faces impeachment rap before House, Dec. 7, 2020

CNN Philippines, SC Justice Leonen faces impeachment complaint, Dec. 7, 2020

Manila Standard, Leonen faces impeachment rap before House, Dec. 8, 2020

Inquirer.net, Leonen now in charge of VP poll protest, Oct. 30, 2019

ABS-CBN News, Leonen now in charge of Marcos-Robredo poll protest, Oct. 30, 2019

Supreme Court of the Philippines, Media Briefer: November 3, 2020, Nov. 3, 2020

ABS-CBN News, SC blocks attempt to secure Leonen's SALN for quo warranto plea, Sept. 15, 2020

Rappler, Supreme Court rejects OSG request for Leonen's SALN, Sept. 15, 2020

Inquirer.net, Gadon, OSG’s plan to initiate a Sereno-like quo warranto case vs Justice Leonen fails, Sept. 15, 2020

Supreme Court of the Philippines, Media Briefer: November 17, 2020, Nov. 17, 2020

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Article XI: Accountability of Public Officers, Dec. 14, 2020

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Articles of Impeachment against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona (December 12, 2011), Dec. 12, 2011

GMA News Anchor Ivan Mayrina Official Twitter Account, Atty Larry Gadon files, Aug. 30, 2017

ABS-CBN News, Impeachment raps filed vs Chief Justice Sereno, Aug. 2, 2017

CNN Philippines, Sereno submits reply to impeachment complaint, Sept. 25, 2017

UNTV News, 2 lawmakers to endorse new impeachment complaint vs CJ Sereno, Aug. 7, 2017

Supreme Court of the Philippines E-Library, Republic of the Philippines vs. Maria Lourdes Sereno, May 11, 2018

The Judicial and Bar Council, Judiciary Book: Supreme Court of the Philippines, Oct. 15, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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