3 November 2020

By Pilipino Mirror

FORMER Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. camp described as a “clear win” the decisions of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which asserted the “sole” jurisdiction of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) about the electoral protest against Vice – President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo’s supposed highly questionable victory in 2016 elections.

Marcos lawyer Vic Rodriguez said OSG’s and Comelec’s decisions that assert the exclusive role of the Supreme Court sitting as PET was a “clear win for Sen. Marcos.”

Rodriguez, who is also Marcos spokesperson, pointed out that the separate decisions showing “Comelec and the Solicitor General rebuking the justice in charge feigned ignorance on the matter of the PET jurisdiction.”

Rodriguez was referring to the Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the ponente of 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 both OSG and Comelec to come up with comments on Marcos’ 3rd cause 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 if the PET has an authority or jurisdiction, to tackle and decide on Marcos electoral protest without infringing the poll body’s authority on the issue.

Leonen made such decision where the majority of the PET’s members agreed on his ponente despite the fact that all protests on the electoral victories of presidential and vice – presidential candidates were under the power of the PET.

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 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 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.

Rodriguez stressed 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.”