“IT’s alive,” many citizens will be moved to exclaim in reaction to The Manila Times exclusive report on September 30 on the status of the election protest of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
Public reaction to the story was, to say the least, electric. During the past two days, comments from readers from all over the country have poured in by the thousands. Social media has been astir with the excited tweets and alarmed comments of netizens.
The camp of Vice President Robredo and the ranks of the opposition have been shaken with worry that a renewed count of votes in targeted areas and precincts could finally break the dam of a flawed balloting and lead to the inevitable: the formal unseating of Maria Leonor Robredo as the duly elected vice president of the Philippines and a switch of places with Marcos.
Political groups and politicians have been tantalized by the implications of the possible return of Bongbong Marcos to center stage, which could inject innumerable uncertainties into the national elections in 2022, which are no more than two years away.
The big question is why the Marcos protest has been taking an eternity to resolve. The case has been pending before the PET for four years and three months. Marcos filed the protest on June 29, 2016.
The exclusive report, which the Times headlined “Leonen finally acts on Marcos protest,” provides the details of the long and winding story behind the delay.
Based on disclosures by unimpeachable sources of the Times at the high tribunal, Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen, the ponente of the Marcos-Robredo poll protest, has been sitting on the case for 11 months.
Leonen became the ponente of the case, via en banc raffle, on Oct. 29, 2019, and the PET adopted his recommendation for a comment, again via memoranda of both parties, on Oct.15, 2019, during the stint of then Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin.
With Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta taking over the helm, Leonen took control of the case and the Marcos and Robredo camps lodged their respective memoranda in January this year.
But since January, Leonen has sat on the case.
The Times learned that Leonen had postponed the case with a series of resets and “call-against.”
Last Monday, Leonen finally issued a draft ruling, which was circulated on the same day, with a recommendation for the Commission on Elections and the Office of the Solicitor General to issue their respective comments on the issues involved.
The issue is whether the PET shall proceed with the third cause of action — the annulment of votes in the Mindanao provinces — for it to be able to prove that there was indeed cheating committed by the camp of Robredo.
Some court insiders told the Times that Leonen was obviously employing “dilatory tactics” to slow down the case,
Some magistrates who talked to the Times on condition of anonymity said the case must be resolved because the people should know who the real winner is in the vice-presidential race.
“It should not be delayed anymore by Leonen because it is the duty of the court to serve justice whoever is the real victor. Justice delayed is justice denied,” one source said.
Leonen is the second Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd-appointed justice to preside over the protest and slow it to a crawl.
Earlier, Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Noynoy’s former classmate, served as ponente.
The journey of the protest, which has seen Marcos raising millions to fund the recount of votes, is by now so partisan and dispiriting that we believe those who are responsible for the delay should be held to account.
When former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted by the high court, Leonen dissented from the unanimous verdict of his peers, saying that Sereno’s ouster was a “legal abomination.”
Now that we see Justice Leonen’s handiwork in the long- delayed Marcos protest, we think it fair to also declare that the deliberate effort to stall the resolution of the case is an “atrocious delay of justice.”