Bongbong Marcos wants SC justice Leonen to inhibit in poll protest

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 09 2020 11:19 AM | Updated as of Nov 09 2020 01:55 PM

Former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. files a motion for the immediate inhibition of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen from participating in any of the proceedings relating to the electoral protest filed at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) at the Supreme Court on Monday. ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — Defeated 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. now wants Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to inhibit from his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

In a “Strong Manifestation with Extremely Urgent Omnibus Motion” personally filed by Marcos before the Supreme Court on Monday, the former senator asked that the election protest be re-raffled and that all pending incidents be resolved.

The magistrates of the Supreme Court sit as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

Marcos cited Leonen’s “scathing pronouncements” against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in his dissenting opinion in the Marcos burial case which supposedly “displayed palpable bias and partiality against the entire Marcos family.”

Among Leonen’s comments:
-Former President Ferdinand E. Marcos presided over a regime that cause untold sufferings for millions of Filipinos.
-Ferdinand E. Marcos stood by as his family, associates, and cronies engaged in systematic plunder.
-Ferdinand E. Marco is no hero. He was not even an exemplary public officer. He is not worthy of emulation and inspiration by those who suffer poverty as a result of the opportunity lost during his administration…He is certainly not worthy of emulation and inspiration by those in public service…
-There has been sufficient public apology, full acknowledgment of facts, or any clear acceptance of responsibility on the part of Ferdinand E. Marcos or his Heirs.
-To add insult to injury, the President decided to acknowledge the heroic acts and other favorable aspects of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the person primarily responsible for these human rights violations. 

Leonen was commenting on whether the late dictator deserved a hero’s burial, the very issue in the case.

For Marcos, Leonen’s comments show he is “biased, partisan” and “prejudiced.”

Marcos even cited Leonen’s previous appointment by former President Benigno Aquino III as negotiator for the government in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF.

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Marcos also cited a 2-part newspaper report on The Manila Times discussing excerpts of a leaked July 10, 2017 25-page reflections Leonen sent to his fellow-magistrates where he supposedly expressed his view that the election protest should be “immediately dismissed.”

But the reflections was circulated long before Leonen voted along with 10 other magistrates to require both parties to comment on the election protest instead of dismissing outright the case when the initial recount showed Robredo 263,000 lead in the 2016 polls even increased by 15,000 in the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental, and Iloilo.

Caguioa was replaced as justice in charge of the case when he lost the vote. Only he and then-Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio voted to dismiss the case outright.

The case landed on Leonen’s lap after it was reraffled.

In an online press conference shortly after filing on Monday, Marcos accused Leonen of employing “dilatory tactics” in supposedly not acting on the case for 11 months, only to require Comelec and the Office of the Solicitor General to comment regarding the PET’s jurisdiction.

“They’ve been hearing this case for 4 and a half years. Why will they hear this case if they don’t have jurisdiction? Kaya’t naging maliwanag sa akin na ang dahilan kung bakit niya hiningan ng comment ay para magdelay ulit. Imposible para sa akin na hindi niya nalalaman e. Isang justice ng Supreme Court hindi nalalaman ang batas tungkol dyan,” he said.

“Sabi ko that’s too much already. Paparating na tayo sa filing next October, we have to do something. Dahil very clear that Justice Leonen has prejudged this case, is hostile to me, to my family, to our entire group…And we have seen many other instances where he has expressed an opinion against me in particular and the Marcoses in general, most of all my father. So maliwanag na maliwanag na he’s prejudiced that’s why we had to file this,” he added. 

Marcos previously sought the inhibition of SC Associate Justice Alfedo Benjamin Caguioa from the PET when he was still the member-in-charge but the PET denied the motion.

He said he hopes Leonen will do a “self-examination.”

Reacting to Marcos’ inhibition bid using Leonen’s statements in a dissenting opinion, UP constitutional law Prof. John Molo said SC “justices should be free to reason and write without fear of future harassment.”

“If Justice Leonen's dissent in the Marcos Burial case is a ground to inhibit him, then the same should apply to the words of the ponente and those who joined the decision to allow the dictator to be buried in the Heroes Cemetery,” he said.

Meanwhile, Marcos denied claims he is behind the move of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon and Solicitor General Jose Calida of requesting for Leonen’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth or SALNs for the purpose of filing a quo warranto petition against Leonen.

He said he tried to stop Gadon from pursuing it while he said he had no discussions with the SolGen about Leonen’s SALNs. 

“Yung kay Atty. Larry Gadon, inaawat ko nga siya. I was telling him, wag muna, wag muna, wag muna until lumabas nga yung comments galing sa Comelec at sa SolGen. Naging maliwanag na panlilinlang talaga ang ginagawa ni Justice Leonen so nagfile na siya, nag-ano na siya para sa SALN. Si Atty. Gadon, we are in touch, nagtetext kami,” he said.

“Although the SolGen, we have not talked about this case, we do not talk about the…I have my own legal team, I do not need to consult with the SolGen,” he added.

In the same presscon, Marcos claimed Calida is “not a supporter.”

But in 2016, Calida headed Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong which pushed for the Duterte-Marcos tandem in the 2016 presidential elections.

Marcos also said he is unaware if the SolGen will support his call for Leonen to inhibit, when asked to react to The Manila Times' report claiming SolGen and Marcos will “join forces” to seek Leonen’s inhibition.

“Well, you should ask SolGen about what his plans are. If he does in fact move to support our motion, then it means he agrees with our arguments. I think we are moving independently, we have come to the same conclusion,” he said.

The SolGen recently backed Marcos’ view that the PET can annul the elections in 3 Mindanao provinces and even declare failure of elections but without calling for special elections.

In July 2016, Calida backed Marcos’ 50% shading threshold, leaving the Comelec to defend its decision to impose a 25% shading threshold.

But the PET, in September 2018, sided with the Comelec’s position, which the Robredo side hailed as a “victory.”

The Supreme Court has also unanimously rejected twice Calida’s and Gadon’s bid to gain access to Leonen’s SALN.