By Rey E. Requejo and Rio N. Araja | Manila Standard
The legal team of Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to investigate “possible collusion” between former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and the Office of the Solicitor General on their electoral protest against her 2016 victory.
The camp of Marcos, through lawyer Vic Rodriguez, lashed back at Robredo when the latter’s lawyers asked the PET to investigate what they described as possible collusion between the former senator and Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Calida, like Marcos, also sought the inhibition of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen from handling the former senator’s poll protest.
“The bigger issue is the President calling Mrs. Leni Robredo dishonest, liar and incompetent,” Rodriguez said in a text message, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirade against the Vice President on national television on Tuesday night.
“With the seriousness and gravity of that presidential accusation, it is Mrs. Robredo who deserved to be probed by the Filipino,” the Marcos lawyer and spokesperson added.
Rodriguez issued the statement after lawyers of Robredo on Wednesday filed an urgent motion with the PET.
Robredo’s lawyers assailed and questioned Calida’s participation in support of Marcos in what they said was supposed to be a private case between a losing candidate and an elected public official.
In separate motions filed last week, Marcos and Calida sought the inhibition of Leonen from handling the election protest of Marcos against Robredo, which has been pending before the PET for more than four years.
“The timing and synchronicity of the actions of OSG and protestant Marcos are too perfect to be accidental,” the Robredo legal team said.
On Tuesday, the PET dismissed both motions as well as ordered Calida and journalist Jomar Canlas, whose reports Marcos and the solicitor general had cited in their pleadings, to explain why they should not be held in contempt of court for their actions.
Robredo’s lawyers noted that the Office of the Solicitor General raised “eerily similar” arguments as Marcos in seeking Leonen’s inhibition.
According to them, the PET should conduct an “immediate investigation” on the “possible collusion among Calida, his 19 assistant solicitors general, and Canlas in “besmirching the reputation of the member-in-charge.”
The two motions accused Leonen of being biased against the Marcos family, both citing his dissenting opinion in the Ferdinand Marcos burial case, as well as the supposed delay in the case under Leonen’s watch as member-in-charge.
Marcos already denied that he and Calida had communicated regarding the election protest.
Robredo’s counsels also stressed that Calida campaigned for Marcos in the 2016 elections, saying this connection makes the solicitor general’s participation in the protest suspect.
The Vice President’s lawyers insisted that only Marcos, the protestant, could raise allegations of bias against Leonen.
“The State, through OSG, has no obligation to assuage the insecurities, impatience or hurt feelings of protestant Marcos,” the motion said.
“The personal feelings of protestant Marcos are not the concern of the Republic or of the people,” it added.
They said the OSG’s function was to serve as the government’s lawyer in legal proceedings. But in submitting motions related to the election protest, Calida has invoked his role as the “People’s Tribune.”
“If the Office of the Solicitor General is to be the People’s Tribune, it cannot be someone’s gladiator,” Robredo’s lawyers said.
“Indeed, how does siding with one man serve the welfare of the people; and why would he take up the position of the defeated candidate whose interest is to call into question and effectively disenfranchise the vote of the people of the Philippines?” they added.
Robredo’s camp asserts Marcos’ protest, which alleges fraud took place in the 2016 polls, should have been dismissed last year when a recount of ballots from Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental showed the vice president’s lead over her challenger increased by some 15,000 votes.
Instead, the PET, citing due process, ordered the parties, the OSG, and the Comelec to weigh in on issues on Marcos’ call for the annulment of election results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao due to alleged terrorism and fraud.
Duterte, in a speech on May 16, 2018, acknowledged Calida to be Ilocano and “passionately pro-Marcos.”
“Given his vocal and well-known support for protestant Marcos, then, it is not the most prudent course of action for Solicitor General Jose Calida to ask any relief from the Honorable Tribunal in the above-captioned Election Protest,” Robredo’s motion said.
The OSG itself, Robredo said, contributed to the delay by asking for a total of 150 days extension in the filing of pleadings and motions.
Under Rule 65 of the PET’s rules, a case may be junked if protestant is unable to show substantial recovery in the initial recount involving 3 pilot provinces chosen by protestant.