FIRING LINE: Context is king


By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

It’s impeachment season again in the House of Representatives. Let’s take a quick look at the context behind the complaint filed against Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, shall we?

In an impeachment rap lodged before the House, the person who filed the complaint isn’t as important as the person who endorsed it. Those are two different things, the key distinction being that only a House member — a congressman — can endorse the complaint before the institution.

It’s the endorser who gives the complaint its legitimacy and newsworthiness — the House reporters who roll their eyes at every rumor of an impeachment case know this very well. No endorser means that the document is as good as scrap paper.

In this case, the solon-endorser is Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, a cousin of losing 2016 vice presidential bet, ex-senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. To me, it was somewhat eyebrow-raising that lawyer Larry Gadon, the legal mind and mouthpiece behind the Leonen complaint, waited at the very last minute Monday to reveal the identity of the endorser to reporters. By the way, he has his own Viber group with media, which serves as his bulletin board.

Who filed the complaint, you ask? A certain Ilokano journalist in Edwin Cordevilla, who carries the vapid title of secretary-general of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Governance. But you can forget about him. That he came from Marcos country up north — like Congressman Barba — is all we need to know.

What could be so egregious about Leonen that Barba and Gadon want to kick him out? Among the 14 SC magistrates, Leonen is in-charge of the election protest filed by former senator Marcos against his 2016 conqueror, Vice President, and now also Liberal Party chairperson Leni Robredo. Time is ticking on that protest as Robredo has less than two years left in office.

Leonen is one of only three holdouts in the High Court from the previous administration, having been appointed to the SC by former president Benigno S. Aquino III in 2012. So yes, the upcoming impeachment drama in the House will feature a Marcos-Aquino dynamic.

As for Barba, we will get to know him very soon. After all, he will be the one who will face the House Justice Committee to prove that the complaint is sufficient in both form and substance. If and when he convinces his colleagues to this effect would the complaint be dissected in detail by the Justice panel. That’s why the brightest lawyer-congressmen usually fill that particular committee in the first place.

Speaking of dissecting the complaint itself, that’s something that I haven’t done here and, quite frankly, others have already done so in great clarity, like retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. Whether or not you believe Carpio’s piece on the Leonen complaint is up to you; we are free to choose our version of the truth.

But while truth in this day and age has become subjective, the underlying context is unchangeable for this impeachment case. Context is king, and that’s what I just laid out for you.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at


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