By Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard
The camp of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed optimism Thursday his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo would be resolved very soon after it had been established that the Supreme Court, acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, had the sole power to declare the annulment of elections in three Mindanao provinces in 2016 as sought by the former lawmaker.
Marcos said he expected a faster action by the PET on his poll protest after the Commission on Elections and the Office of the Solicitor General asserted the high tribunal could annul the votes in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao as guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution and even by PET’s own rules on electoral protests in the presidential and vice presidential elections.
There was no immediate comment from the side of Vice President Robredo.
Marcos’ lawyer, Vic Rodriguez, stressed there was “no more excuse for Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to evade a clear judicial function provided for by the Constitution as a sole judge “to hear all cases involving the election, returns and qualifications of the President and the Vice President.”
Leonen is the current justice-in-charge of the election protest filed by Marcos before the PET in June 2016.
In its comment, the Comelec said “it is crystal clear that PET is empowered by the Constitution to declare annulment of elections without special election.”
Besides, agreeing with the Comelec position that PET can annul election, the OSG pointed out that the special election is not within PET’s authority and jurisdiction since it is under Comelec’s turf.
With the Comelec and OSG’s legal positions, Rodriguez declared that Leonen had done delaying tactics for ordering the OSG and the Comelec to file their respective positions on PET’s role in Marcos’ case that covers even three provinces in Mindanao where rampant election fraud took place.
In a separate comment, Rodriguez said that one of OSG’s positions effectively reminded Leonen that the PET had its own rules about complaints on election fraud in both presidential and vice presidential polls which were approved by all members of the PET in 2010.
Second was that OSG also informed Leonen that he himself knew very well PET’s exclusive and sole role as judge in presidential and vice presidential election protests.
Rodriguez, however, clarified that while Marcos got some fresh air for a faster resolution on his more than 4-year-old case against Robredo, his client’s belief could only be done if Justice Leonen would inhibit himself from being the ponente of the case.
The Marcos lawyer reiterated his previous statement that “if there is still a minuscule of respect for the Supreme Court left in him, Justice Leonen must now inhibit (himself) and rescue from handling this case to spare the entire Court and his colleagues from further embarrassment” from the public.
Leonen became the justice-in-charge on October 29 last year after Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the former ponente, retired in the same month.
The 12 members of the PET rejected Caguiao’s ponente that dismisses the Marcos case. Only former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio sided with Caguioa.
Leonen was appointed to the Supreme Court on November 29, 2012 by then President Benigno Aquino III following the former’s supposed “positive achievement” as chief negotiator of the government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to achieve peace in Mindanao.
Rodriguez emphasized “the matter of failure of elections is irrelevant for us because we never sought for that relief because we understand the law and jurisprudence. What we have been asking is for the annulment of elections which is purely a judicial function.”
“With the comment of both Comelec and the OSG, it has defanged the justice in charge of any more delaying tricks on his hat. We can now look forward to the PET’s immediate action on the Annulment of Elections which would give Sen. Bongbong Marcos a lead of more or less 45,000 votes over Mrs. Robredo,” Rodriguez said.