MANILA – Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on Saturday defended the Presidential Electoral Tribunal’s resolution requiring parties to the election protest filed by 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to comment on the result of the initial recount before resolving whether to junk or proceed with the protest.
Leonen is one of 11 SC magistrates, sitting as the PET, who voted to give Marcos and Vice President Leni Robredo 20 days to file their memoranda despite the PET’s findings that Robredo’s lead even increased by around 15,000 votes after the initial recount in the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental and Iloilo.
SC Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the justice in charge of the election protest, had called the requirement to comment an “exercise in futility” in his dissenting opinion, insisting that the protest should be dismissed following PET Rules.
But Leonen on Saturday said due process requires both parties be given the chance to be heard.
“You do not want a court to condemn without hearing, no matter what the consequences are, you do not want to condemn,” he told a gathering of members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Manila on Saturday, a day after the Supreme Court released a copy of the PET resolution and the dissenting opinions. SC magistrates sit in a separate capacity as the PET.
The majority resolution cited due process considerations to justify its ruling.
Leonen said due process of law is a fundamental requirement under the Constitution.
“You do not judge a decision by its conclusion. You judge a decision by whether or not it remains true to all our fundamental values, which includes due process of law. And if you actually read the entire resolution, ask yourself this: when did the Court, when has the Court given the opportunity to accept the arguments of all the parties on the legal interpretation of a particular case?,” he said.
The delay in the PET’s action on Marcos’ election protest had fueled speculation from both sides, each claiming victory.
Caguioa submitted his report to the magistrates on September 9 but the PET voted on it only on October 15, or more than a month later.
Leonen warned against insinuations the PET is favoring one party over another.
“Just because you are for due process of law does not mean that you are for one party,” he said.
“You undermine the court system that you yourself want to avail of when you caricaturize its process simply because it did not act a certain way,” he added.
Marcos filed the election protest against Robredo in 2016 claiming massive fraud. He lost to Robredo by a slim margin of 263,473 votes, which, according to the result of the initial recount, increased to 278,566 votes, or by 15,000.
Instead of entertaining rumors, he advised the public to read the PET resolution instead.
“I think the resolution is out there and it is up to the public to make their own interpretations. The public should read the entire resolution,” he said.
Leonen clarified the ruling is not a decision yet but only an “interlocutory resolution” which does not finally settle the case.
But the resolution, he said, outlines the issues that the Court wanted the parties to be heard.
Among these issues are whether the PET could still look into Marcos’ third cause of action seeking to annul the elections in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Lanao del Sur given the results of the initial recount and how to go about this process.
Lawyers of Vice President Leni Robredo had earlier pointed out that the 2010 PET Rules do not specify the procedure for annulling elections.
Other crucial issues: should the PET decide to annul the elections, will other positions be affected and should special elections be held?
Retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban told ANC earlier this week that elections should be held in case the elections in the 3 Mindanao provinces are annulled.
Computations by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group based on Comelec data show Marcos could lead by 45,000 votes in the overall tally if all the votes for Marcos and Robredo in the 3 Mindanao provinces are disregarded, although election experts point out fraud must be proven precinct by precinct.