The Manila Times - Leonen submits ruling on Marcos election protest, finally

2 February 2021

By The Manila Times

SUPREME Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen, after more than a year of sitting on the case, has finally completed a draft ruling on the protest of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., contesting the victory of Maria Leonor Robredo in the 2016 vice-presidential election.

We trust that with this development, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) can now dispatch all the roadblocks and move confidently forward to a fair and just resolution of the protest.

The Times learned from a highly reliable source in the high court that Justice Leonen has submitted a 97-page draft resolution, accompanied by a two-page memorandum to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, is hearing the Marcos protest, which alleges fraudulent returns from voting precincts in Mindanao, among other places.

Justice Leonen is said to have submitted the draft last January 12, following a promise he made to speed up the resolution of the case, which hardly moved ever since it was raffled and assigned to him a year ago.

Leonen, who is noted to have taken particular care to protect against leakage or unauthorized disclosure, personally handed the draft to his fellow magistrates during their en banc session.

The draft document bears Leonen’s unique watermark — baybayin characters for the word “confidential” on every page of the document. Baybayin is the ancient Filipino writing system.

Leonen also asked each magistrate to sign for the copy of the draft, another safeguard against leakage, the court insider said.

The justice has been extra cautious in protecting the confidentiality of the documents he issues, following the incident wherein The Times obtained a copy of his reflections on the Marcos case in which he advocated for its dismissal. Because of high public interest in the case and the prolonged period of waiting for a resolution, we did not hesitate to publish a story on Leonen’s reflections.

He had appended a footnote to the reflections document warning the high court’s staff:

“This is part of the internal deliberations of the Court. Unauthorized disclosure, publication or use of this document or any of its contents is classified as a grave offense and is punishable by suspension or dismissal from service.”

The reflections have now also turned up among the sheaf of documents that have been submitted as evidence in an impeachment case filed against Leonen at the House of Representatives.

The nation should not be drawn into an argument or quibble over the confidentiality of Justice Leonen’s draft and the preciosity of his thoughts. All this fastidiousness looks to us extravagant.

Public attention must not stray away from the fundamental realities of this protracted case.
The protest has been pending before the PET for four years, having been filed by Marcos on June 29, 2016.

It languished for three years with Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and more than a year with Leonen.

Justice Leonen entered upon his duties as associate justice of the Supreme Court with nary a day of experience as a judge in the court system. He was previously a dean of the college of law of the University of the Philippines. He also served for a time as the Aquino government’s chief negotiator in peace talks with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The rest looks like on-the-job training.

It has been reported several times in The Times that Justice Leonen has repeatedly chalked up the most number of unresolved cases in the high court. He appears to have occupational difficulty in resolving cases that come to him for resolution.

Many among the citizenry and members of the legal community believe that because of Justice Leonen’s lack of judicial experience in adjudicating cases, he may not know how to resolve the Marcos protest wisely and fairly.

There was plenty of time for the tribunal to summon all that was necessary to permit an objective determination of the merits of the protest, but time was frittered away on lawyerly bickering during the dispute; and the lack of interest of assigned ponentes bottled up the case.

Now here we are, with a new national election looming on the horizon a year from now.