MANILA — The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, on Tuesday withdrew its earlier order requiring the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and a newspaper reporter to show cause why they should not be cited in contempt of court, sources said.
The PET last week junked motions for inhibition filed by the OSG and defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. while requiring the OSG and The Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas to explain why they should not be penalized by the tribunal.
No reason was given for the show cause order and a copy of that order has yet to be released.
But the OSG, in its comment to the PET, used similar arguments Marcos had raised and quoted in full 2 articles of Canlas which discussed Associate Justice Marvic Leonen’s “Reflections,” a leaked document circulated among justices, where the magistrate allegedly argued for the junking of the election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Leonen has since voted with the majority not to dismiss the protest.
On Tuesday, SC sources said that the show cause order has been recalled.
No reason was given for the recall except a quote from Leonen, the member in charge of the election protest, to his colleagues: “Forgiveness is often the more decent consequence of another’s misunderstanding.”
ABS-CBN News is still seeking more information from the SC Public Information Office about the PET’s decision.
On Tuesday, Vice President Leni Robredo’s legal team submitted their response to the comments filed by the Commission on Elections and the OSG on the pending election protest.
Robredo urged the tribunal to affirm the result of the initial recount which showed her lead widen by 15,000 votes in the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental and Iloilo, and pushed for the dismissal of the election protest.
Citing Rule 65 of the PET Rules, the vice president said Marcos failed to make his case.
Adding the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao, she said, will give Marcos 6 pilot provinces in total, in violation of the PET Rules.
Marcos had insisted that the annullment of elections in the 3 Mindanao provinces is a separate matter not covered by Rule 65.
Robredo also accused Marcos of misleading the tribunal by citing a finding made by a Comelec voters’ ID division that the 2016 national, local and ARMM (the then Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) polls were allegedly marked by different forms of election fraud such as massive substitute voting.
She quoted a portion of the Comelec’s comment submitted to the PET which distanced itself from the findings of the Comelec voters’ ID division, saying it did not pass upon the “validity, merit and probative value” of the finding Marcos is relying upon.
She pointed out that she was not a party to the election case between now Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman and former Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, which only covered 167 clustered precincts or not even 10 per cent of the clustered precincts in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.
She added, the Comelec itself had said all petitions for declaration of failure of elections in the 3 provinces have failed.
“While admittedly, a petition seeking failure of elections is different from an annulment of elections, the allegations and quantum of evidence are the same. The difference lies in the jurisdiction and effects of the declaration of a failure of elections vis-à-vis an annulment of elections,” she said before explaining that the difference is “superficial.”
Marcos had claimed the failure of elections petitions in the 3 Mindanao provinces had nothing to do with his election protest, even when he himself had wanted PET to rely on the findings of a Comelec voters’ ID division in a separate local case.
Echoing the Comelec’s position, Robredo warned the “annulment of elections (must) be judiciously exercised with utmost caution and resorted only in exceptional circumstances” and “there must be clear and convincing evidence to show that the protestee is the one responsible for the acts complained of.”
Marcos had claimed he could easily wipe out Robredo’s lead of 263,000 votes if the results in the 3 Mindanao provinces, where Robredo obtained 497,985 votes, were annulled.
But Robredo said Marcos never even alleged she was responsible for any of the alleged frauds in these areas.
“[H]ow can protestant Marcos prove this material requirement for an Annulment of Elections when it was never alleged in the Election Protest?,” she asked.
“Equally noteworthy is that protestant Marcos also failed to include in his Preliminary Conference Brief any evidence which will prove that protestee Robredo was the one directly responsible for the unlawful acts complained of,” she added.
She told the PET that to allow the technical examination in the 3 Mindanao provinces pursuant to Marcos’ third cause of action would be to “change the rules in the middle of the game” and will violate her rights to due process and equal protection.
Both the Comelec and the OSG had said the PET has jurisdiction to annul elections.
But they differed in that the OSG went so far as to allow PET to declare failure of elections but not call for special elections, backing the view of Marcos’ lawyers.
The OSG also backed Marcos’ bid for Leonen's inhibition from the election protest using similar arguments, which led Robredo to ask the PET to probe possible collusion between the two.