Like Marcos, Calida pushes for Leonen inhibition in VP poll protest
This file photo shows Solicitor General Jose Calida.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

Like Marcos, Calida pushes for Leonen inhibition in VP poll protest

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - November 9, 2020 - 6:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Jose Calida has moved for the inhibition of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in the vice presidential poll protest in a motion filed separately from a similarly-worded one that former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. filed earlier Monday.

In a completely unrelated pleading from Marcos', Calida asked the Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to grant the motion for Leonen to inhibit from proceedings and to immediately re-raffle the poll protest.

Calida reportedly filed the motion at noon, hours after Marcos — who said in a press conference that he and the solicitor general have not discussed the protest at all — did the same. Marcos stressed that he has his own lawyers.

This is at least the third time that Calida, who styles his office as the People's Tribune, filed a pleading that leans in favor of Marcos in the vice presidential poll protest.

'If he supports, then he agrees'

Marcos, in a news briefing early in the morning, was asked whether he will “join forces” with Calida on Leonen’s inhibition. He replied: “Well, you should ask Solgen about what his plans are. If he does in fact move to support our motion, then it means he agrees with our arguments.”

Calida, who  supported the vice presidential bid of Marcos under the Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong (AlDuB) group in the 2016 national elections, previously asked the SC copies of Leonen’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth for a quo warranto petition.

Lawyer Larry Gadon, another known supporter of Marcos, also asked the SC for copies of Leonen’s SALN. The SC denied their requests.

Gadon, with whom Marcos admitted to being “in touch”, first shared pages of the OSG motion to reporters in a Viber group chat. He said after posting the photos: “Solgen filed inhibition against Marivic [sic] Leonen and re raffle.”

Calida again invokes mandate of ‘tribune of the people’

Calida said that it noted “undue delay” in the proceedings as the OSG was preparing its Comment on pending issues on the poll protest.

“The inaction of the current Member in Charge, the Honorable Justice Leonen, for the past 11 months, coupled with his expressed disdain to the members of the Marcos family, duly recorded in his opinions as Associate Justice, compel us, with due respect to move for his inhibition,” the OSG said.

Calida invoked his mandate as “People’s Tribune” — the same reason he cited when he took a stance on vote shading threshold markedly different from the one held by the Commission on Elections and in favor of Marcos.

“The Filipino electorate has been on edge as regards the real winner in the elections for Vice President. So while the OSG is not technically a party to the present election contest, it filed the Comment on the defined issues as required by the Honorable Tribunal, and, in addition, moves for the inhibition of Justice Leonen,” the motion read.

The Marcos burial dissent, and other Leonen opinions

Like Marcos’ allegation against Leonen, Calida accused the justice of “[exhibiting] bias and partiality against the whole Marcos family in his dissent in the Marcos burial cases.”

Calida and Marcos both used “candidly” in describing how Leonen supposedly wrote his dissent and showed his “loath” towards the Marcoses.

Calida for his part extensively discussed Leonen’s dissenting opinion that supposedly showed the justice’s “personal biases against the late President Marcos and his family.” The OSG added that lumped together the Marcos family into a “single unit of human rights violators.”

The Marcos motion also cited the same reason but used “single entity of human rights violators.”

Both motions also mentioned how Leonen supposedly suggested that the Marcos heirs apologize.

Calida went on and said Leonen’s “hatred” towards the Marcos family is also evident in other opinions he issued, such as in Francisco Chavez v Imelda Marcos.

In the cited ruling penned by Leonen, the SC junked former Solgen Chavez’s petition for review on the ruling that acquitted Imelda.

While the SC affirmed Imelda’s acquittal, Calida said the SC did not discuss the supposed violation on former first lady’s human right against double jeopardy. He said Imelda “lost as she was constrained to re-litigate for an additional period of more than ten years.”

Manila Times two-part report

Calida quoted the full two-part report of the Manila Times on Leonen’s supposed “reflections” that pushed for the dismissal of the case.

This is a point also raised by Marcos in his own motion for inhibition, although he only quoted the second part of the report.

Calida said that the Manila Time report supposedly triggered renewed public interest in the case.

“Whether true or not, the news that Justice Leonen has prejudged the electoral protest affects the integrity of the Tribunal, if he remains to be ponente. A judge must not only be impartial, but must appear to be impartial,” he added.

‘Justice delayed is justice denied, especially in an election protest’

While Calida’s motion expanded on other points raised by Marcos in his own and separately crafted pleading, the two had the same sentiment in the same wording: “Justice delayed is justice denied, especially in an election protest.”

 The solicitor general added that the “People needs to know who the actual winner in the vice-presidential race.”

Calida pressed that Republic Act 1793 holds that the PET must decide the protest within 20 months, while Batas Pambansa Blg. 884 gave an even shorter period of twelve months for resolution.

“[T]he unjustified delay in the present protest case has violated said provisions to the prejudice not only of both protestant and protestee but, worse, the electorate,” the OSG added.

Calida noted that it has been held that if a judge is “unable to discern for himself his inability to meet the test of cold neutrality,” the SC would see that he disqualifies himself—another sentiment Marcos stated in his motion.

He continued: “Inhibition is necessary in order to avoid not just impropriety in the conduct of Judges but also the mere appearance of impropriety. Appearance or perception is an essential manifestation of reality. It is, therefore, indispensable that judges or Justice be above suspicion.”

Leonen 'exacting revenge'

Calida also raised as “relevant antecedent” Leonen’s prior post as chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front when the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed in 2012. 

It must be noted, however, that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro — the final peace agreement that included the commitment to organize what is now called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao — was only signed in 2014. Leonen was no longer chair of the government peace panel then, having been appointed to the Supreme Court in 2012.

The proposed Bangsamoro sub-entity was met with opposition in the Senate, including at the Committee on Local Government, which Marcos chaired. 

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law was affected by public sentiment over the 2015 Mamasapano clash, where at least 60 Filipinos — including 44 police commandos — were killed in an hours-long firefight as police were leaving a remote area of Mamasapano, Maguindanao after an anti-terrorist operation.

In the Marcos motion, the former senator accused Leonen of "exacting vengeance" against him for blocking the Bangsamoro Judicial Entity (BJE). 

Marcos said that Leonen's hard work on the BJE came to naught and the poll protest could be the perfect opportunity to "extract his pound of flesh."

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