MANILA — If her opponent's argument were to be held, no one would be left at the tribunal to deliberate on his poll protest.
Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday used the same logic as her opponent Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos who had asked for Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to inhibit from serving as member-in-charge of his election protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
Marcos had argued Leonen was “biased and partisan” supposedly because of his dissenting opinion in the Marcos burial cases, where he said the former senators late dictator father Ferdinand Marcos is not a hero, and that the Marcos family and cronies have engaged in systematic plunder, among others.
“To follow the logic and reasoning of protestant Marcos would result (in) an absurdity if not inhibition of most, if not all the members of the Honorable Tribunal,” Robredo said in her counter manifestation filed by her lawyers on Wednesday.
The vice president said that considering the well-known differences between her and President Rodrigo Duterte, and the President’s admission that the sister of Marcos supported his presidential campaign, should the 11 justices appointed by the President inhibit as well?
“Are the members of the High Tribunal who have been appointed by President Duterte now biased in favor of protestant Marcos?,” she asked.
She also asked if the same bias might also be imputed against Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, who penned the decision allowing Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe who concurred in the resolution.
Voting 9-5, SC magistrates in late 2016 junked petitions seeking to block the President’s decision to grant the late dictator a hero's burial.
Among the justices who took part in the vote, only Peralta, Bernabe, Leonen and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, who also dissented, are still in Court.
This is not the first time Marcos sought the inhibition of the justice in charge of his poll protest.
In August 2018, he also asked Caguioa, the previous justice in charge, to inhibit from the case supposedly because of his and his wife’s close ties with former President Benigno Aquino III.
Caguioa served as Justice Secretary under Aquino, who supposedly had “nothing but harsh words” to say about Marcos. The late dictator ordered the arrest of Aquino’s father Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. during martial law and was accused of plotting his assassination in 1983.
Marcos also accused Caguioa’s wife of supporting Robredo.
But the PET junked Marcos’ conspiracy claim against Caguioa, telling him to provide “extrinsic evidence of bias and partiality” and sternly warned him that “any unfounded and inappropriate accusation made in the future will be dealt with more severely.”
In the same ruling, the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, reminded Marcos that the member-in-charge of the election protest only recommends a course of action and that it is the PET that ultimately acts collectively on the election protest.
In her counter manifestation, Robredo also pointed out that just like in his inhibition bid vs Caguioa, Marcos relied heavily on news articles of Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas who had been previously sternly warned by the Court for “hurling unfounded and baseless accusations” against SC magistrates.
Robredo rejected Marcos’ claim of unfair treatment at the hands of the PET.
“Protestant Marcos has not been treated unfairly. He has been given every opportunity to prove his unfounded claims of electoral fraud. After more than four (4) years, protestant Marcos has not been able to prove that he should be declared the rightful winner in the 09 May 2016 Vice-Presidential Elections,” she said.
She noted that Marcos was defeated twice — in the May 2016 polls and in the result of the initial recount in his election protest, which showed her lead of 263,000 votes over Marcos increased by 15,000 votes.
Robredo said that if there’s anyone to blame for the delay in the resolution of the poll protest, it should be Marcos himself.
“Thus, the delay in the resolution of this Election Protest can only be ascribed to the steadfast refusal of protestant Marcos to accept the plain and simple truth — he lost, not once but twice,”
“The truth, no matter how difficult or bitter it might be must be accepted.”