Jan 21, 2021 @ 16:47
‘Deeply disturbing’: PET says Calida-Bongbong attack versus Leonen attacks all justices
The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has found “deeply disturbing” the fact that Solicitor-General Jose Calida joined the “mistaken view” of defeated vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., in connection with his failed attempt to get Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to inhibit from his electoral protest.
In a recently-released 34-page resolution, the PET said Marcos and Calida’s argument attacking the orders written by Leonen also attacked the tribunal as a whole because all the justices “act as one body.” This meant Calida’s accusations of incompetence and lack of probity also extended to all the PET members for whom Leonen was speaking.
The PET even turned Calida’s strong words for Leonen back against him. Quoting his memorandum, the PET told Calida to “conduct a careful self-examination,” and “exercise his discretion in a way that the people’s faith in the courts of justice is not impaired.”
“When protestant and the Solicitor General argue that Justice Leonen was grossly ignorant in issuing these Orders, in effect, what they are saying is that this Tribunal was grossly ignorant of the law. This is disrespectful and discourteous to this Tribunal,” read the unanimous resolution.
It repeated that Marcos, represented by lawyer Vic Rodriguez, should “maintain his arguments within the realm of reality” if he could not prove with evidence “how a single Member was able to maneuver the will of 14 other Members into blindly following him with regard to all matters referred to the Tribunal.”
“Lawyers for litigants at the highest level of our judicial system are expected to have a better knowledge of our workings. They do a disservice to their clients when they mislead them and the public that the Supreme Court is less than a collegial body,” read the strongly worded resolution.
“That the protestant’s mistaken view of this Court is joined by no less than the Solicitor General is deeply disturbing,” it added.
The per curiam resolution was signed by Leonen, as well as Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, and Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Alexander Gesmundo, Ramon Paul Hernando, Henri Jean Paul Inting, Rodil Zalameda, Mario Lopez, Edgardo delos Santos, Samuel Gaerlan and Ricardo Rosario. (Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang and Amy Lazaro-Javier were on wellness leave.)
The nearly identical motions for inhibition filed by Marcos and Calida hours apart on November 9 chiefly cited Leonen’s dissent in the Supreme Court’s (SC) November 8, 2016 decision not to prevent the Duterte administration from burying the remains of Marcos’s father, dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
They also cited the banner stories written by The Manila Times court reporter Jomar Canlas claiming that Leonen provided his colleagues with “reflections” on July 11, 2017 that supposedly showed that he leaned towards the dismissal of the electoral protest. Likewise, they both accused Leonen of delaying the resolution of the case.
Calida invoked his standing as “People’s Tribune” in abandoning the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as a client and defending the interests of Marcos, a private individual.
However, the PET said the standing “is not to be hoisted wantonly in big ticket cases involving private parties” and reminded Calida that his “default client” is the Republic of the Philippines and “the people themselves.”
It noted that Calida even came to the PET to defend Marcos’s interests “without, at the very least, asking for leave of court as courtesy.”
The PET said that if Calida was genuinely concerned about the supposed delay in the electoral protest, “he should have confined the issue… as this was the only matter with relevance to the public.”
“Lamenting a decision he posits as unfavorable to a particular family and lackadaisically invoking People’s Tribune are not hallmarks of a high-ranking government official on whom public trust is reposed,” read the resolution.
The PET said Calida should have been “more circumspect before he cited unsubstantiated news articles” and cautioned the parties to refrain from using language undermining the tribunal’s credibility and respect.
As for the merits, the PET reiterated that drafts are confidential and positions there are temporary; hence, they “should not be taken against any Justice who, again, is simply doing his or her job.”
It said it could have issued a show cause order against Calida and Canlas for leaking sensitive and confidential materials, but opted to just “focus on the merits of the issues” for now.
The PET said the claims of lobbying was belied by its October 15, 2019 resolution that ordered the parties to raise their arguments in their respective memoranda, instead of dismissing the protest outright when the results of the initial revision of ballots showed the lead of Vice-President Leni Robredo widening from 263,473 to 278,566 votes.
Leonen even joined the majority in voting to require the filing of the memoranda, belying “protestant’s narrative of a partial and vengeful magistrate who had already prejudged protestant and his entire family.”
The PET also reminded Marcos that he was “not President Marcos” and were “two different people,” making Leonen’s dissenting opinion in the Libingan ng mga Bayani case “irrelevant” in the electoral protest.
It said Leonen in that case merely analyzed the arguments, weighed the evidence, and arrived at his own conclusion—”to put in elementary terms, he was simply doing his job.”
It added that Leonen’s description of the Marcos regime and its effect on the nation “was based on law, history and jurisprudence,” noting that the SC had repeatedly acknowledged its authoritarian character, the existence of his cronies, the fact of illegal wealth, and the suffering of the Filipino people.
The PET found Marcos and Calida’s logic faulty, because it would have lead to the rest of the justices who voted in favor or against the burial to recuse themselves in future cases involving the dictator’s family.
“This would then lead to an absurd scenario where all the justices will have to inhibit for either voting for or against a party when a new case is filed against that party. This conclusion is plainly unacceptable,” the resolution read.
The PET noted that Marcos himself “gave evidence of Justice Leonen’s impartiality,” when he cited the June 27, 2018 decision he wrote in the case of Chavez versus Marcos, which was won by First Lady Imelda Marcos.
Marcos tried to turn it against Leonen, by blaming him for the “10-year ‘relitigation'” of the case, even though he had been a justice only since 2012.
Calida was not alone in filing the motion that offended the PET. He was joined by Assistant Solicitors-General Ma. Antonia Edita Dizon, Marissa Dela Cruz-Galandines, Bernard Hernandez, John Emmanuel Madamba, Rex Bernardo Pascual, Eric Remigio Panga, Ellaine Rose Sanchez-Corro, Thomas Laragan, Myrna Agno-Canuto, Hermes Ocampo, Nyriam Susan Sedllo-Hernandez, Raymund Rigodon, Angelita Villanueva Miranda, Penafrancia Carpio-Devesa, Alexander Salvador, Joseph Guevarra, Diana Castañeda-de Vera, Gilbert Medrano and James Lee Cundangan.