By Hector Lawas | Journal Online
FORMER Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. camp described as a “clear win” the positions of both the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which asserted the “sole” jurisdiction of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) on the pending electoral protest filed by Marcos for the Vice-Presidency in the last 2016 national elections.
Marcos lawyer Vic Rodriguez lauded the OSG and Comelec’s position asserting the exclusive role of the Supreme Court sitting as the PET and describing it as a “clear win for Sen. Marcos.”
Rodriguez, who is also Marcos spokesperson, pointed out that the separate Comment showed “Comelec and the Solicitor General rebuking the justice in charge on the matter of the PET jurisdiction.”
Rodriguez was referring to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the ponente of the Marcos electoral protest since October 2019.
The two agencies’ entry in the protest was a product of Leonen’s one-page ponente last September which ordered OSG and Comelec to come up with comments on Marcos’ 3rdcause of action asking the PET to annul the results in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao due to election fraud such as “massive substituted voting”.
Leonen also ordered the Comelec to comment on the issue of the Tribunal’s authority or jurisdiction, to tackle and decide on Marcos 3rd cause of action which calls for the annulment of election without infringing on the poll body’s authority on the matter.
Leonen made such decision where the majority of the PET members agreed on his ponente despite the fact that all past protests on the election, returns and qualifications of the presidential and vice – presidential candidates were exclusively tried and heard under the constitutional power of the Tribunal.
OSG sided with Marcos’ “third cause” motion citing the 1987 Constitution.
In a 38-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida cited Article VII, Section 4 of the Constitution in reminding and stressing to PET, specifically to Leonen that “The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President and may promulgate rules for the purpose”.
Calida even told Leonen that “The Presidential Electoral Tribunal has the power to declare the Annulment of Elections without infringing upon the authority of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)”.
The Comelec also pointed on the same arguments and orders of the Constitution to the highest court of the country in upholding Marcos track of electoral protest.
In a 30-page comment, the Comelec further tightened the firmness of its decision by reminding Leonen about the PET’s own rules in carrying out its jurisdiction and authority released on 2010.
The poll body cited the explanations of PET’s rules 7, 8 and 13.
Rule 13 was all about the very instruction of the Constitution on PET’s sole jurisdiction and authority on complains of electoral fraud on two top positions in the government.
According to Rodriguez, Marcos knew very well the entire rules of the electoral protest, which led him to continue the fight despite the fact that Leonen was an appointee of former President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III and his perceived bias against former senator Marcos.
Since the PET Rule was decided and released by 15-magistrates of the high court in 2010, Leonen was expected to ask his fellow justices about the rule after his November 2012 appointment to the Supreme Court.
Leonen has the luxury of time to read, review and study the PET Rule so that he would not waste 11 months to ask OSG and the Comelec about PET’s sole authority and jurisdiction on the matter.
The late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago’s electoral protest against President Fidel V. Ramos victory in 1992 presidential elections had also reached the PET.
The complaints of then vice -presidential candidate Loren Legarda and the late presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. against their respective opponents have been tackled and decided by the PET.
The justices handling their cases never bothered to think of getting the opinions of the Comelec, much more of the OSG, in order to clarify if the PET has indeed the authority to decide on fraudulent vice – presidential and presidential exercises.
Leonen’s September ponente took eleven months for him to come up with the idea of getting the opinions of the OSG and Comelec on PET role over Marcos’ electoral protest.
Marcos filed his electoral protest in June 2016.
Rodriguez said Marcos “was right all along with analyses that Justice Leonen is merely delaying the resolution of his case.”
With the extremely snail-paced action of Leonen, “the integrity of the Tribunal (PET) is under scrutiny”, Marcos lawyer continued.
He stressed that if Leonen “has still a miniscule of respect to the Supreme Court left in him”, he must voluntarily inhibit and recuse from the Marcos case to spare the high court and the 14 other magistrates from further embarrassment.