The Manila Times - Leonen pushed SC justices to vote on poll protest

22 February 2021

By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times


First of Two Parts

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen was reportedly in hysterics as he allegedly railroaded the election protest of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., which resulted in the dismissal of the case against Vice President Leonor Robredo.

A highly reliable source inside the court recounted to The Manila Times how Leonen was shouting at the point of tears while pressing his fellow magistrates to accept his draft decision on the case that ruled for a dismissal.

The Supreme Court transforms itself into the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) when hearing protests involving presidential and vice presidential elections.

Marcos had linked Robredo to what he claimed were fraudulent returns from several polling precincts in Mindanao during the 2016 vice presidential elections.

The insider said Leonen allegedly tried to browbeat the newly appointed court member, Justice Jhoseph Lopez, in accepting the draft decision.

The source claimed Leonen urged the tribunal to act with haste on the case, saying he was “under attack,” citing the criticisms and impeachment case he was facing.

Leonen circulated his 97-page draft decision to the PET members on January 12.

Lopez was sworn in as Supreme Court justice on January 26. He attended his first en banc session on February 2.

During that session, Leonen told Lopez he had only a week to study the draft decision.

Leonen had wanted the tribunal to vote on his draft on February 2, but the justices agreed to give Lopez ample time to study it, the source said.

When the tribunal met again the following week, Leonen reportedly pressed his argument for an outright dismissal, saying no concurring or dissenting opinion was submitted.

The magistrates, however, sued for time. Justices Samuel Gaerlan and Mario Lopez said they needed more time for reflection. Lopez asked for another week.

Amy Lazaro-Javier reminded everyone that the tribunal was supposed to give its newest member at least a month to study the case.

Another insider familiar with the deliberations said at this point, Leonen reportedly began to get highly emotional, telling his colleagues that the case needed swift action.

“Can’t you see I am under attack!” Leonen was quoted by a third source.

“Umiyak halos siya (Leonen) at gusto na ng voting (Leonen was on the verge of tears as he pleaded for the voting),” the source said.

Leonen reportedly tried to pull rank, reminding his colleagues he was among the senior members of the court, The Times learned.

Another source agreed that more time was needed to ponder the Marcos case since the records submitted filled about 40 folders.

“It looks like Leonen wanted to pressure the justices because he was going for a quick win,” one of the insiders said.

On February 16, Supreme Court spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka announced that the PET had dismissed the case.

Eight of the justices concurred with Leonen’s decision in its entirety and seven concurred only with the portion to dismiss the case.

Leonen celebrated the announcement by treating his fellow justices and their staff to pizza and soft drinks.