OSG wants Leonen out of Marcos poll protest

Published November 9, 2020, 6:06 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

The Office of the Solicitor General, the government’s law firm, sought Monday the inhibition of Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen in the election protest filed by former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.

The OSG plea was contained in a motion filed Monday afternoon hours after Marcos lodged his own pleading to recuse Leonen in the election protest case that was filed in 2016.The two motions filed with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, composed of all SC justices, cited almost the same grounds of alleged bias and partiality of Leonen against Marcos and his family.

Leonen took over as justice-in-charge or ponente of the election protest more than 11 months ago.In the case of the motion signed by government lawyers led by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, the OSG cited the delay in the resolution of the election protest.

The OSG cited two laws, Republic Act No. 1793 and Batas Pambansa Bilang 884, which require immediate termination of an election protest case.

It said that under RA 1793, the PET should decide the protest within 20 months from the filing of the case, while BP 884 provides a shorter period of 12 months.

“The unjustified delay in the present protest case has violated the provisions (of the laws) to the prejudice not only of both protestant (Marcos) and protestee (Robredo) but, worse, the electorate,” the OSG said.

It pointed out that if Justice Leonen will not inhibit himself from the case, his refusal “will destroy the reputation of an independent Judiciary.”In his own motion to inhibit, Marcos cited Leonen’s “palpable bias and partiality against the entire Marcos family.”

Citing examples, Marcos told the PET of Leonen’s dissenting opinion on his father, the late former President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ case.

He said the justice’s dissenting opinion stated, among other things, that “former President Ferdinand E. Marcos presided over a regime that caused untold sufferings for millions of Filipinos.”

He also cited published report that Leonen, as early as 2017, had expressed a view that the election protest should be dismissed outright.

“Given the fact that the Supreme Court is a collegial body, it would be unfair and unjust for the other members… to be tainted by the apparent impropriety of Associate Justice Leonen,” he stressed.

Last September, the PET required both the Commission on Elections and the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on various issues pending with the tribunal.In its comment, the Comelec said that while the PET has the power to annul elections results, the tribunal has no authority to declare failure of elections or direct the holding of special elections.

The Comelec pointed out that it has the “exclusive jurisdiction” to declare failure of elections or to call for special elections.

Its stand differed slightly from that taken by the OSG which said that while the PET has the power to annul election results or declare failure of elections, the tribunal has no power to order the holding of special elections.

The election protest filed by Marcos against Robredo in 2016 has three causes of action – annulment of the proclamation of Robredo; recount and revision of ballots in 36,465 protested clustered precincts; and annulment of election results for vice president in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan on the ground of alleged terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters, as well as pre-shading of ballots in all of the 2,756 protested clustered precincts.

In his protest, Marcos named the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental as his pilot areas for the recount and revision of ballots. 

In its Oct. 15, 2019 resolution issued after the recount and revision of ballots in the three pilot provinces, the PET said:

“Thus, based on the final tally after revision and appreciation of the votes in the pilot provinces, protestee Robredo maintained, as in fact she increased her lead with 14,436,337 votes over protestant Marcos who obtained 14,157,771 votes. After the revision and appreciation, the lead of protestee Robredo increased from 263,473 to 278,566.”

In his memorandum filed early this year, Marcos asked the PET to proceed with the process of annulling the results of the elections in three Mindanao provinces.

He also asked the tribunal to re-examine the results of the appreciation of ballots conducted in his pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental.

In her memorandum, Robredo asked the PET to dismiss Marcos’ protest for his alleged failure to present any substantial recovery of ballots in the three pilot provinces.