Manila Bulletin – Leonen impeach case raises hope for resolution of pending poll protests at HRET

By Ben Rosario | Manila Bulletin

The filing of an impeachment case against Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has raised the hope of a former party-list lawmaker and at least 25 other complainants of seeing the near-resolution of their long-delayed cases filed before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal since July 2019.

The quo warranto case filed by former ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera was cited as a glaring example of Leonen’s alleged arbitrary and evident bad faith in resolving cases to which he has jurisdiction.

De Vera’s case is just one of the 26 election cases pending before the HRET chaired by Leonen.

De Vera filed a quo warranto case before the HRET against Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo who ran against him a few months after resigning her post as commissioner of the Philippine Competition Commission.

De Vera said that under the law that created the PCC, Quimbo cannot run for any public office in the next election following resignation from the agency.

As early as November 2019, De Vera already sought an HRET ruling on his case when he filed a motion for summary judgment. The former lawmaker said he believes that Quimbo’s admission that she ran for public office despite recently resigning from PCC already comprises an admission that she is disqualified.

Lawyer Larry Gadon, who assisted impeachment complainant Edwin Cordevilla, said Leonen’s being chairman of the HRET is a clear reason why De Vera’s case was not resolved over a year after a decision was sought by the complainant.

“Perhaps the reason why there has hardly been any movement in the electoral protest is because Quimbo belongs to the Liberal Party, which is the political party of respondent’s patron, Aquino,” the impeachment complaint stressed, apparently referring to the fact that Leonen, who reportedly did not have any court trial experience, was appointed to the SC by former President Benigno S. Aquino III, an LP leader.

Gadon said what happened to De Vera is known in the legal profession as a “dribble” or the deliberate food dragging in resolving a case.

The delays in the resolution of HRET cases has so far cost the real winners in the 2019 elections 16 months in their 36-month term of office.

According to Gadon, the impeachment complaint against Leonen stressed: “Needless to say, respondent’s continued inaction in the cases pending before him, not only in the Supreme Court but also as chairperson of the HRET, is detrimental to public interest and a clear betrayal of public trust.”

In a news forum in the House, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin revealed that there were 36 election cases filed before the HRET in July 2019. At least 10 have been resolved while 26, including the De Vera-Quimbo case, have been gathering dust in the tribunal.

However, Garbin, a senior member of the HRET, explained that the delay in the De Vera issue may have been caused by changes in House contingent’s head in the HRET.

The House contingent is currently under Caloocan City Rep. Along Malapitan who took over the position when Speaker Lord Allan Velasco relieved Kabayan partylist Rep. Ron Salo last month.

Before Salo, the House team in the HRET was headed by Mindoro Oriental Rep. Salvador Leachon who was sacked and replaced by Salo in January for alleged involvement in an attempt to oust then Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Garbin also noted that delays in the resolution of the cases can be attributed to the recent decision of the Quezon City building official to declare as “condemned” the three-story building housing the HRET.

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