MANILA— The legal team of Vice President Leni Robredo has urged the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to investigate possible collusion between defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on the electoral protest against her 2016 victory.
Both Marcos and the OSG, on the same day last week, filed separate motions to seek the inhibition of Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen from the election protest filed by Marcos against Robredo, claiming bias and partisanship on the part of the justice.
Leonen is the member in charge of the poll protest. Supreme Court magistrates sit as the PET in deciding presidential and vice presidential election protest cases.
“The timing and synchronicity of the actions of OSG and protestant Marcos are too perfect to be accidental. Their supposedly 'separate' filings were made on the exact same day, containing similar arguments and relying on the same sources,” Robredo’s lawyers said in their motion.
Robredo’s lawyers accused the OSG of lawyering for Marcos, producing a side by side comparison of the “eerily similar” motions.
Filed 3 hours apart, both motions raised similar arguments.
Both cited the same paragraphs from Leonen’s dissenting opinion in cases against the hero's burial for Marcos' late father, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The former senator claimed that Leonen is allegedly “biased and partisan.”
Both motions also used the same sentence: “Justice delayed is justice denied, especially in an election protest.”
As ABS-CBN News reported last week, the OSG’s motion used the same arguments raised by Marcos in his motion.
Marcos had earlier denied “joining forces” with the OSG in seeking Leonen’s inhibition.
Robredo’s legal team questioned the legal standing of the OSG to appear before the PET case, noting that it could only have done so if it were acting as lawyer for the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
But the OSG had abandoned the Comelec when it sided with Robredo in the ballot shading threshold issue. PET eventually sided with Comelec’s 25-percent threshold position, which Robredo’s side saw as a favorable ruling.
In its motion, Robredo’s lawyers rejected OSG's invocation of its mandate as "tribune of the people" to justify its appearance before the PET.
They said invoking the “tribune of the people” mandate requires that the government or any of its agencies, instrumentalities, officials or agents are involved in the case and that the state should have a direct interest in the outcome.
No Philippine government agency is involved in Marcos’ election protest, insisting that while Robredo is an elected official, the matter has become a private suit between a proclaimed elective official and a candidate who lost.
Robredo’s legal team also questioned Solicitor General Jose Calida’s “rabid” support for the Marcoses — he organized the Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong (AlDub) in 2016 rallying for a Duterte and Marcos presidency and vice presidency. Marcos lost by 263,000 votes to Robredo, the closest vice presidential race in recent memory.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself, in a speech on May 16, 2018, acknowledged Calida to be Ilocano and “passionately pro-Marcos.”
“Given his vocal and well-known support for protestant Marcos, then, it is not the most prudent course of action for Solicitor General Jose Calida to ask any relief from the Honorable Tribunal in the above-captioned Election Protest,” Robredo’s motion said.
In addition, Robredo’s team argued that the claim of “bias and partiality” against Leonen is personal to Marcos, which the OSG cannot invoke.
The OSG itself, they said, contributed to the delay by asking for a total of 150 days extension in the filing of pleadings and motions.
Robredo also pointed out that both Marcos and the OSG relied heavily on articles written by The Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas, discussing excerpts from a leaked “Reflections” where Leonen supposedly argued for the junking of the case.
But the Reflections was circulated long before Leonen joined the majority in October last year to seek comments from parties first instead of dismissing the election protest after Marcos showed no substantial recovery in the initial recount.
Under Rule 65 of the PET’s rules, a case may be junked if protestant is unable to show substantial recovery in the initial recount involving 3 pilot provinces chosen by protestant.
The PET found Robredo’s lead of 263,000 votes even widened by 15,000 votes after the initial recount.
Robredo’s team argued the entire protest should be dismissed but Marcos claimed his plea for the annulment of elections in 3 Mindanao provinces is a separate cause of action.
Robredo's legal team filed the motion seeking an investigation into possible collusion on Tuesday, the same day the PET junked Marcos' and OSG's motions for inhibition against Leonen and required the OSG and Canlas to show cause why they should not be cited in contempt of court.