Leonen is among the 11 magistrates of the SC, sitting as the PET, who voted to give Marcos and Vice President Leni Robredo 20 days to file their respective comments.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Leonen defends PET resolution on VP poll protest
Robertzon Ramirez, Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen yesterday defended the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET)’s resolution requiring the parties in the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to comment on the results of the initial recount before a final resolution.

Leonen is among the 11 magistrates of the SC, sitting as the PET, who voted to give Marcos and Vice President Leni Robredo 20 days to file their respective comments.

Leonen explained that due process requires both parties to present their arguments before a final resolution is handed down on the electoral protest.

“You do not want a court to condemn without hearing, no matter what the consequences are, you do not want to condemn,” Leonen told the gathering of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Manila yesterday.

The PET on Friday issued a 57-page resolution saying Robredo’s lead over Marcos has increased by as much as 15,083 votes in the “preliminary and interlocutory” recount.

The PET said that the result came out after completing the appreciation of the revised ballot from pilot provinces picked by Marcos – Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental – that was conducted from Jan. 14 to Aug. 14, 2019.

In its recount, the PET said Robredo got 1,493,517 votes in the three pilot provinces, which is 291,381 higher than the 1,202,136 votes of Marcos in the total 5,418 clustered precincts in the three provinces. 

But the PET said that they deducted three clustered precincts of the total 5,418 “as the paper ballots were wet, damaged and unreadable” and after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) failed to provide the tribunal with its respective decrypted ballot images. 

“Thus, based on the final tally after revision and appreciation of the votes in the pilot provinces, protestee Robredo maintained, as in fact she increased, her lead with 14,436,337 votes over protestant Marcos who obtained 14,157,771 votes,” the PET said.

With this development, two members of the PET – Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio – moved to dismiss the electoral protest of Marcos against Robredo.

Caguioa said he does not see any reason to continue hearing Marcos’ electoral protest “for lack of merit.” 

“In accordance with Rule 65 of the PET Rules, I vote that the instant Electoral Protest be dismissed without further proceedings for lack of merit,” Caguioa said in his dissenting opinion released by the SC. 

In a 10-page dissenting opinion, Carpio echoed Caguioa’s sentiment, saying he also does not see any reason to conduct further proceedings on the Marcos protest. 

Carpio also noted Robredo has garnered a lead vote against Marcos during the final tally and after the revision and appreciation of the votes in the pilot provinces. 

“Since the revision results indicate no substantial recovery on the part of (Marcos), and thus (Marcos) ‘will most probably fail to make out his case,’ the dismissal of the election protest, and thus, the discontinuance of any further proceedings, such as the revision of the remaining contested provinces, is proper pursuant to Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules,” Carpio said. 

Under Rule 65 of the PET rules, the protestant, which is Marcos, is given the opportunity to designate three provinces which best exemplify the fraud or irregularities raised in his protest. 

The PET and the camp of Marcos selected Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental as pilot provinces in accordance with Rule 65 of the PET Rules. 

After identifying the three provinces, Caguioa said PET retrieved thousands of ballot boxes, revised millions of ballots and ruled on each and every objection and claim of both Marcos and Robredo. 

“After all these, the (PET) eventually arrived at a final tally: protestee Robredo garnered 14,436,325 votes, increasing her lead from 263,473 to 278,555 over protestant Marcos who obtained 14,157,770 votes,” Caguioa said. 

“Here, the numbers clearly show that instead of narrowing the margin of votes between (Marcos) and (Robredo), the margin even widened from 263,473 to 278,555,” he added. 

“It is therefore a disservice to the PET Rules to refuse to dismiss the protest despite its clear and unmistakable lack of basis. Because from the result, what else is there to say and comment on?”

Their dissenting opinion, however, went against the resolution of the majority that included Leonen, citing fair play and due process of law.

Due process required

Leonen stressed due process is a fundamental requirement under the Constitution.

“You do not judge a decision by its conclusion. You judge a decision by whether or not it remains true to all our fundamental values, which includes due process or law. And if you actually read the entire resolution, ask yourself this: when did the Court, when has the Court given the opportunity to accept the arguments of all parties on the legal interpretation of a particular case?” he said.

Leonen warned against insinuations the PET is favoring one party.

“Just because you are for due process of law does not mean that you are for one party. You undermine the court system that you yourself want to avail of when you caricaturize its process simply because it did not act a certain way,” he said.

Leonen clarified last Tuesday’s ruling is not a decision but an “interlocutory” resolution that outlines the issue where the parties should comment before the PET finally settles the issue.

Among the issues is the question whether the PET would proceed with Marcos’ third cause of action seeking to annul the elections in three provinces in Mindanao that includes Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan.

The PET had clarified that the resolution “does not yet resolve the entire case, but is merely preliminary and interlocutory in nature” as it only aims “to hear the parties fully on the various legal issues relating to their controversy.” 

“It is not finding for or against the protestant (Marcos) or the protestee (Robredo),” it said.

The PET also emphasized that it “deems it essential to meet due process requirements” before its members will come out with the decision on the electoral protest.

The PET had given Marcos and Robredo 20 days to comment on the revision and appreciations of votes in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental before it can “confidently and judiciously deliberate” on their course of action. 

Rules of the game

Robredo pointed out Rule 65 is clear enough to warrant the dismissal of the electoral protest against her.

She said Marcos had selected the areas or the pilot provinces that he deemed to have won and the PET rules do not specify the procedure to annul the results of the elections in certain areas.

“We saw that in the three pilot provinces, my lead against him even increased,” Robredo said.

“We did not choose the pilot provinces, he was the one who chose it… Now that the results of the recount has been released, we expected that his protest will soon be dismissed,” she added.

Robredo said they expect the election protest to be dismissed as Marcos failed to make a substantial recovery of votes in the recount of his chosen pilot provinces.

“This proves who was telling the truth and who was lying,” Robredo said on Friday following the release of the copy of the dissenting opinions of Caguioa and Carpio.

Robredo cited the dissenting opinion of Caguioa warranting the dismissal of the electoral protest.

Robredo supported Caguioa’s and Carpio’s dissenting opinions, urging the PET not to change its rules in the middle of the game by allowing Marcos to again add three provinces after he lost in the first three that he selected.

“PET’s own rules – Rule 65 – says that the protestant has to show substantial recovery after the recount in his chosen three provinces. If there is no substantial recovery, then the petition has to be dismissed. What Marcos is asking is to add three more provinces, which is against the rules of PET,” Robredo said.

She also disputed the claim of Marcos’ lawyer that they were receiving inside information from the PET, saying their information that she widened her lead following the recount came from their watchers.

“They also had watchers so they know the results of their recount. Even before this was released by the Supreme Court, they already know the results because they have representatives in the recount. They know that my lead increased,” Robredo said. 

“Now they are making it appear that because they lost in the recount, they are casting doubt on the Presidential Electoral Tribunal when in fact, they have their own watchers there,” she added.

“I will return to Mr. Marcos what his family likes to say: Move on. You lost, accept it.”        

MARVIC LEONEN
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