PET junks Marcos inhibition plea vs Justice Leonen in VP poll protest

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 17 2020 01:59 PM | Updated as of Nov 17 2020 04:34 PM

2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr and Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), on Tuesday junked motions seeking the inhibition of Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen from the election protest that defeated 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. filed against Vice President Leni Robredo. 

SC magistrates voted “unanimously” to reject the motions filed by Marcos and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which accused Leonen of bias against the Marcoses, according to the high court's public information office.

Leonen is the member in charge of Marcos’ election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

The PET also required the OSG and The Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas to explain why they should not be held in contempt of court. 

The OSG is not a party to the election protest but justified its involvement as “tribune of the people” while Canlas’ newspaper reports were cited heavily by both Marcos and the OSG as basis to impute bias on the part of Leonen.

In his motion, Marcos cited Leonen’s “scathing pronouncements” in his dissenting opinion in the cases questioning the hero's burial accorded to Marcos' late dictator father Ferdinand Marcos,to support his claim that Leonen was “biased and partisan” against him and his family. 

He repeated this allegation in a press conference after his filing.

He also included Leonen’s appointment by former President Benigno Aquino III as negotiator for the government in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Canlas’ 2-part report, which discussed Leonen’s July 2017 reflection paper allegedly expressing his view that the election protest should be immediately dismissed.

Aquino's slain father Benigo "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. was an opposition figure during the Marcos dictatorship. 

Marcos, the former senator, also accused Leonen of deliberately delaying the resolution of the case with less than 2 years left in the term of the vice presidential post he is contesting.

As ABS-CBN News reported, the OSG’s motion used similar arguments raised by Marcos in his motion, even citing, at one point, the same paragraph from Leonen’s dissenting opinion in the Marcos burial cases.

Marcos denied he “joined forces” with the OSG in seeking Leonen’s inhibition, as Canlas reported.

The OSG further accused Leonen of mishandling a case which, while it ended with Imelda Marcos’ acquittal, allegedly led to Imelda’s loss because she was supposedly forced to re-litigate for 10 more years. 

The solicitor general had previously supported Marcos’ view that the PET can annul the elections in 3 Mindanao provinces and declare failure of elections, without calling for special elections.

It also sided with Marcos over the shading threshold issue, leaving Comelec to defend its own decision to employ a 25-percent threshold.

This is not the first time the PET stood behind one of its own.

In 2018, it rejected Marcos’ bid to inhibit SC Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa on the basis of his supposed bias towards his former boss, former President Benigno Aquino III, for whom he previously served as justice secretary.

The Supreme Court had also rejected twice the move by the OSG and Marcos supporter lawyer Lorenzo Gadon to obtain access to Leonen’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) in a bid to file a quo warranto petition against him.

Marcos also denied he supports moves to seek Leonen’s ouster from the SC but said he had tried to stop Gadon from pursuing it.

The former senator is urging the tribunal to proceed with his third cause of action on annulment of elections in the provinces of Maguindanao, Basilan and Lanao del Sur despite an earlier finding by the PET that Robredo’s 263,000 lead over him grew by 15,000 after the initial recount.

Robredo said the PET Rules were clear that failure to show substantial recovery after the initial recount should lead to dismissal of the election protest. 

Marcos insisted his third cause of action was separate and distinct, not covered by the same rule the vice president is invoking.

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