By Charissa Luci-Atienza | Manila Bulletin
Quezon City 6th District Rep. Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte has reminded the Supreme Court not to let itself be influenced by the “powerful few”, even as he questioned the judiciary for its failure to finally decide with finality on the election protest filed by defeated candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.
“In these times of great uncertainty, the nation looks to its courts for anchorage. We look to them to reflect what binds us together as a nation– our values, our rights, the idea that we all answer to the same laws. Ang Korte Suprema ang pinakamaliwanag na sagisag ng katotohanang ito (The Supreme Court is the brightest emblem of this truth),” he said during the House plenary deliberations on the Judiciary’s proposed P43.54 billion budget for 2021.
“We all appeal to resist efforts to wield our legal system for the self-interest of the powerful few to uphold the highest ideals of the judicial independence, impartiality, integrity and justice itself,” he stressed.
He made the appeal after the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), directed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to comment on certain pending issues in the electoral protest against Robredo, involving Marcos’ third cause of action on the annulment of elections.
“While this representation has no intention to interfere with judicial and court processes and while we recognize the importance of the independence of the judiciary and the non-diminution of its budget, I would like to express at this point my personal disappointment over the Supreme Court’s failure to decide with finality the electoral protest in the case of the Vice President of our Republic which is adding to the disruption of the stability of our political system,” Belmonte said.
“It is clear to me, at least to me also as a practicing lawyer before I became a representative of the people of the 6th District of Quezon City, na noong 2016 elections, nanalo si Vice President Leni Robredo at doon sa electoral protest recount na para po sa mga laymen ay para na ring preliminary investigation, ay lumaki pa po ang kanyang panalo (during the 2016 elections, Vice President Leni Robredo won and based on the electoral protest recount, for the laymen, it’s like preliminary investigation, her margin of victory increased) ,” Belmonte said, referring to the PET’s October 2019 ruling.
He explained that with the PET’s ruling in 2019, based on his experience as a lawyer, the electoral protest filed against Robredo should have been dismissed.
“Good as pang-dismissal na ‘yan ng kaso (The case is good as dismissed),” Belmonte said.
The PET ruling noted after an initial protest recount of ballots from the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental, Robredo got a total of 278,566 votes, making her vote lead increased by around 15,000.
Belmonte said the Filipino people, including him would like to understand why the SC is not yet handing down its final decision on the issue.
“I defer to the wisdom of the best lawyers in the land and in the Supreme Court. Nais ko lang maintindihan at ng kababayan natin kung bakit hindi pa po nila tuldukan with finality ang issue na ito (I and our country would like to know why this issue has not been resolved with finality.) Mr. Speaker, I don’t need an answer to that right now,” Belmonte said.
The SC has directed the Comelec to respond to Bongbong Marcos’ petition to nullify the election results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao due to alleged poll fraud and terrorism.
It asked both the poll body and OSG to comment on whether the tribunal is authorized to declare the annulment of elections even without special elections, and declare the failure of elections and order the conduct of special elections.
The Comelec and OSG have been ordered to comment if the tribunal’s declaration of failure of elections will infringe on the Comelec’s constitutional mandate to conduct elections.