Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific call on the Philippine Congress to reject this complaint, in defence of democracy and judicial independence.

A vibrant and protected civic space is an essential part of a healthy democracy. A respected justice system in every society helps to ensure this, assuring that the decisions of the court are both just and equitable. Thus, we at Friends of the Earth International are alarmed by and denounce the malicious complaint filed against Philippine Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, on 7 December 2020.

The impeachment complaint was lodged before the House of Representatives in the Philippines, by Edwin Cordevilla of the Filipino League of Advocates for Good Government and lawyer Larry Gadon. It accuses Justice Leonen of “culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust”, alleging that he lacked integrity for failure to file statements of assets, liabilities and net worth for 15 years. The complaint was endorsed by Rep. Angelo Barba Marcos, a cousin of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. who has an electoral protest pending before the Supreme Court sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal. Justice Leonen is the Tribunal’s chairperson. Marcos had previously petitioned for Justice Leonen to be inhibited from hearing his case. The petition was dismissed.

We see this complaint as a manifestation of the disturbing trend of shrinking democratic spaces around the world. It highlights the decline in democracy and increasing volatility of institutions against the interests of politics.

Marvic Leonen has been an important figure in the history of Friends of the Earth both at the international level and in the Asia Pacific region. As co-founder and Executive Director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (Friends of the Earth Philippines), he brought important and urgent community issues from the Philippines to the global arena. While serving in the international Executive Committee and Membership Committee, he was instrumental in strengthening the voice and perspective of the global south in the overall framework of the Friends of the Earth federation. As a legal expert and advocate, he contributed to the deepening of our environmental justice framework.

Marvic embodied the Friends of the Earth principles, working among grassroots communities and elevating their issues to the collective, internationalist solidarity of a global movement. He advocated for the most urgent environmental and social issues, and challenged the current economic models that put peoples’ rights and the environment at great risk. Marvic worked to promote solutions for creating environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.

Marvic has since moved to the Highest Court of the Philippines. It is a position which suits him outstandingly well, where his principled understanding of the law as an instrument of justice finds excellent expression. His body of work is a testament to this, and here he continues working to ensure that the law serves the ideals of justice and democracy towards a peaceful and sustainable world.

Over 100 colleagues and lawyers have released a statement of support for Justice Leonen, and is growing in support denouncing the impeachment complaint as ”baseless and unfounded”. Marvic himself has said that the issues raised in the complaint were for “personal or vindictive reasons.”

We trust and call on the Philippine Congress that they will reject this complaint, to ensure democracy is not only defended but thrives, and to protect and support judicial independence. With the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments have more important issues to address – now is not the time to play politics but rather to work together towards a collective, just recovery.

#StandWithJusticeLeonen

For more information contact:
Mai Taqueban
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
Email: mtaqueban@gmail.com

Theiva Lingam
FoE Asia Pacific Regional Facilitator
Email: apacrf@gmail.com