By Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard
The camp of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday claimed victory over the positions manifested by both the Office of the Solicitor General and the Commission on Elections in their respective comments, which asserted the “sole” jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, on the pending electoral protest filed by him against Vice President Leni Robredo in 2016.
Marcos lawyer Vic Rodriguez lauded the OSG and Comelec’s position asserting the exclusive role of the PET, describing it as a “clear win for Sen. Marcos.”
Rodriguez, who also serves as Marcos spokesperson, said that the separate comments showed “Comelec and the Solicitor General rebuking the justice-in-charge feigned ignorance on the matter of the PET jurisdiction.”
Rodriguez was referring to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who is the ponente of Marcos electoral protest since October 2019.
The OSG and Comelec’s comments were in compliance with Leonen’s single-page resolution last September, which ordered the two agencies to submit their respective comments on Marcos’ third cause of action in his election protest 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 PET’s authority or jurisdiction, to tackle and decide on Marcos third cause of action, which calls for the annulment of election without infringing on the poll body’s authority on the matter.
Justice Leonen apparently issued the resolution with the concurrence of the majority of PET members 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.
This as moves to oust Leonen as magistrate of the Supreme Court fizzled out after the 15-member bench turned down on Tuesday the appeal of the Office of the Solicitor General for a reconsideration of its earlier decision denying its request for the release of his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net worth for purposes of preparing a possible quo warranto petition against him.
“The Court denied the motion for reconsideration dated October 22, 2020 filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, praying that: (a) the Resolution dated September 15, 2020 be reconsidered and set aside; and (b) a new Resolution be issued granting the OSG’s letter-request dated September 11, 2020 seeking copies of the SALNs and/or ancillary documents and information,” the SC said, in a media briefer.
The OSG, through Solicitor General Jose Calida, earlier sought for a reversal of its decision denying its request for the release Leonen’s SALNs for purposes of preparing a possible quo warranto petition against the magistrate.
In filing a motion for reconsideration, the OSG pleaded for a reconsideration of its previous ruling that denied the release of Leonen’s SALN for the sake of transparency and in compliance with the constitutional provision guaranteeing the citizen’s right to information.
"The Solicitor General is making the request for purposes of possible court action as he represents the State in prosecuting actions for Quo Warranto," the motion stated.
"The 1987 Constitution , particularly Section 7, Article III, of the 1987 Constitution on the right to information and section 28 of Article II, requires full disclosure of the SALNs of Associate Justice Leonen," it said.
The OSG’s appeal dated October 22, 2020 seeks for the reversal of the Court’s decision dated September 15, 2020, which denied its request for the disclosure of the certified copies of SALN of Justice Leonen for the years 1990 to 2011.
The chief state lawyer asserted that "the outright prohibition to disclose the SALNs of Associate Justice Leonen is contrary to the spirit and intent of Republic Act No. 6713 and its implementing rules and regulations which promotes full access of the public to SALN, though the same may be heavily regulated."
The Solicitor General said the public must be given access to the SALNs and cannot be prohibited under the guise of a regulation.
Leonen was appointed SC justice on November 2012. Before his appointment to the high court, he was a professor of the University of the Philippines College of Law until he became the chairman of the GRP Peace Panel during the Aquino administration.
Lawyer Larry Gadon also made a similar plea and argued that there was already a precedent on this case after he initiated the impeachment complaint against then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Gadon said that he also made the same request for the certified copies of the SALN of Sereno and was granted by the SC on August 15, 2017.
"As a precedent, it is on record that the undersigned also filed the same request for certified copies of Atty. Lourdes Sereno's SALNs which the Honorable Court granted in its Order on August 15, 2017 . The Certified true copies released to the undersigned were used as one of the grounds for the impeachment case against Atty. Lourdes Sereno, which was filed by the undersigned on August 31, 2017 . The release of the certified copies of SALNs was granted by the Honorable Supreme Court much prior to the filing of the impeachment case," Gadon said.
In a 38-page comment, Calida likewise 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 out the same arguments and orders of the constitution to the electoral tribunal in upholding Marcos track of electoral protest.
In a 30-page comment, the Comelec insisted that PET has its own rules in carrying out its jurisdiction and authority.
The Comelec 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 eleven 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 on June 2016.
Rodriguez said that 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 said 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 and public criticisms.
Rodriguez said that “the audacious display of ignorance, real or feigned, betrayed much of his unfitness to be part of an elite Court traditionally reserved for the most erudite members of the legal profession.”