Manila Standard - Gone haywire

10 October 2020

By Rod Kapunan | Manila Standard

"Justice Leonen could have answered his own question."

Only after sitting on the petition for eleven months did the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, presided by procrastinating justice Marvic Leonen, decide to seek the opinion of the Office of the Solicitor General and Commission on Elections on the issue of jurisdiction to justify his dismissal pending the outcome of the long awaited decision.

As the petitioner would comment, the annulment of election: 1) Is an exercise of the judicial function by the PET; 2) Only the results connected in the areas contested in the election protest are considered; and 3) The only question to be determined by the PET is who between the candidates garnered the majority of the valid votes cast.

BBM never asked for a declaration of a failure of elections which is totally different and a distinct cause of action under our election laws. The remedy sought is for the annulment of the election results in the provinces of Lanao Del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao which is recognized by the 2010 Rules of the PET under Rule 73.

This absolutely anti-Marcos bigot who is now the presiding justice of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal wants to make a fool of himself when it is evident that R.A. No. 1793 approved on June 21, 1957, provides in Section 3 that the PET shall decide the contest within 20 months after it was filed, and within said period shall declare who among the parties has been elected by a majority vote of the members of the Congress in a joint session assembled.

This justice knows that RA 1793 was not amended when the 1987 Constitution was drafted, meaning that all contests and questions related to the position of President and Vice President shall be decided by the PET and that the PET is mandated to finish its assignment within 24 months from the filing of the petition. The exclusivity of jurisdiction is reiterated in Article VII, par. 6 of Section 4 of the Constitution to quote: “The Supreme Court sitting en banc shall be the sole judge of all contests related to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose.” This is reiterated in 2010 Rules of the PET, Rule 13, on jurisdiction, to quote: "The Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to election, returns and qualifications of the President and the Vice-President of the Philippines."

All of a sudden, this Rip Van Winkle justice was awakened after this column wrote that for four years and a half, he slept on the petition, and now demanding issues to be decided which is clearly outside the scope of his jurisdiction before coming out with a decision of the petition. Rule 13 of the 2010 PET Rules is clear. The Order of the PET to comment is it wants to know if special elections were held in these areas, and the results of these elections and is seeking Comelec’s comment on certain issues involving Marcos’ third cause of action on the annulment of elections, which he knows should have been resolved by the tribunal but did not.

The ludicrous justice of the PET is now asking whether there was an election held in the three questioned provinces and that an election was marred by terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters and pre-shading of ballots. Clearly, Leonen could have answered his own question as it was his tribunal that heard from the parties and could have verified what happened in that election.

This justice knows that the PET has jurisdiction over the case; allowed the petitioner to submit his evidence in support of its cause of action, yet now raises certain unresolved issues not within his jurisdiction after allowing the petition to hibernate for four and a half years. Leonen now comes out with a nasty question in the guise of raising jurisdiction by asking the Comelec whether it has jurisdiction over which the Constitution and by R.A. No. 1793 that has long been resolved as exclusive to the Supreme Court, specifically to the PET. He now drags the Comelec and the SolGen to cover his ignorance about his claim of “unresolved” issues they themselves left open to warrant the dismissal of the petition rather make an honest-to-goodness recount of the ballots. It is like a justice asking an elementary student what he is going to do with the problem he is tasked with.

To reiterate, it is too late now for Justice Leonen to raise this issue for it is clear the PET acquired jurisdiction and have long declared that the protest is sufficient in form and substance in accordance with Rule 21 of the 2010 PET Rules. Besides, Bongbong Marcos never sought the declaration of a failure of election as a relief to any of his causes of action. In fact, there is a whale of difference between annulment of elections and failure of elections except that Leonen failed to digest what it means.

Leonen is practically besmirching the intelligence quotient of his colleagues after accepting the huge amount of bond necessary for the court to hear the petition, only to come out dismissing the petition for lack of jurisdiction? It practically insulted himself just to make it appear he has the nitty-gritty understanding of the law. But for all of his pretended cleverness, he directed his question not to the petitioner but to the Comelec and to the SolGen obviously with intent to further delay the petition and if luck is on his side, obtain a wrong answer to aggravate just how he made a monkey of our judicial procedure.

If the Comelec gives a wrong answer, the shrewd but lazy justice would have created a constitutional crisis. It will be a hilarious wrangle between the High Court and the Comelec on the basis of a fictitious jurisdiction concocted by Leonen himself.

This shameless justice after sleeping on the petition for 11 months even has the gull to give the poll body and the SolGen 20 days to comment on whether the PET is empowered by the Constitution to declare the annulment of elections even without special elections, and declare the failure of elections and order the conduct of special elections. If the SolGen and the Comelec failed to submit their comment in that time frame given by Leonen, he would be imposing judicial protocol he himself blatantly ignored? It would be hilarious because this lazy justice would be punishing the commissioners and the Solicitor General for the rule he clearly trampled upon. By then, Leonen would have committed the greatest political swindling in our history, not to say of extorting the petitioner an amount of P34 million just for the PET to come out with an empty can decision. It will be a decision that has truly become one of moot and academic or in law functus oficio with the cheater proclaiming to the whole world she did not lose nor cheat in that fraudulent election in 2016.