Marcos wants Leonen out as ponente in VP electoral protest

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    DEFEATED 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Solicitor General Jose Calida yesterday called for the inhibition of Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen from the electoral protest filed by the former against Vice President Leni Robredo.

    Marcos, accompanied by his lawyers, moved for Leonen’s recusal from electoral case and asked the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to order the re-raffle of the case to another justice and to resolve all pending matters related to his protest.

    Leonen has taken over as ponente in the electoral protest filed by the former senator against Robredo.

    In his manifestation, Marcos cited Leonen’s dissenting opinion to the burial of his father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City, which he said showed Leonen’s “palpable bias and partiality” against the Marcos family.

    “In his dissenting opinion in the Marcos burial case, Associate Justice Leonen candidly expressed how much he loathed the late President Ferdinand Marcos and the latter’s family and friends,” Marcos said in his plea.

    He also cited Leonen’s stint as the chief government peace negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the previous administration.

    “Given his past pronouncements and previous employment history, one might surmise that the electoral protest would be the perfect venue for Associate Justice Leonen to exact vengeance,” Marcos said.

    “If truth be told, the scathing pronouncements of Associate Justice Leonen in a number of landmark cases, his previous employment history as well as the manner in which he has handled the election protest thus far will prove that he will not be a fair and impartial ponente in the instant electoral protest,” he added.

    Marcos likewise cited a news article in a newspaper that his electoral protest has “already (been) prejudged” by Leonen long before the case was assigned to him.

    “Whether true or not, the news that Associate Justice Leonen prejudged the electoral protest affects the Tribunal’s integrity. A judge must not only be impartial but must appear to be impartial,” he added.

    Robredo’s lawyers Bernadette Sardillo and Emil Marañon slammed Marcos’ petition and said the move was just the latest in a series of actions by the Marcos camp to discredit the PET’s recount after the results showed him at the losing end.

    In his petition, Marcos accused Leonen, the member-in-charge, of showing bias against him and asked that the poll protest be re-raffled.

    Sardillo and Marañon however said Marcos’ move is not a surprising one.

    “Mr. Marcos is on his mind conditioning game again. We are not surprised. This is another trademark move of Mr. Marcos. If he doesn’t get what he wants, he moves to attack the integrity of an institution or a person to force them to give in to his desires,” the lawyers noted.

    They pointed out that Marcos had also previously made a similar attempt to recuse Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa which was dismissed by the PET with a stinging warning that further “unfounded and inappropriate accusation in the future will be dealt with more severely.”

    Robredo’s camp chided Marcos for going after PET members when things are not going in his favor.

    “May we remind Mr. Marcos that it is already 2020. This is no longer the period of his father’s reign of terror where they can do anything they want. Stop acting like a spoiled brat who cries when he doesn’t get his candy,” the lawyers said.

    They added that the former senator should accept the loss and accord respect to the PET rulings.

    “Face reality. Vice President Leni Robredo won. Twice. Pagod na kami na hanggang ngayon, pagkatapos manalo sa eleksyon at sa recount, patuloy pa rin ang panggugulo at pagsisinungaling ni G. Marcos. (We are tired that, despite [Robredo’s] victory in the election and the recount, Mr. Marcos continues peddling his lies),” the election lawyers said.

    It will be recalled that Marcos also sought the inhibition of Caguioa from the case but the SC in a ruling in September 2018 unanimously rejected his move. Marcos has claimed that Caguioa is allegedly biased in favor of Robredo.

    The SC in rejecting Marcos’ move against Caguioa also warned him that “any unfounded and inappropriate accusation made in the future will be dealt with severely.”

    Both Leonen and Caguioa are appointees to the SC of former president Benigno Aquino III, a party-mate of Robredo.

    Leonen took over the case from Caguioa last year after the latter dissented from the majority ruling when he called for the dismissal of the case after Marcos’ failure to show substantial recovery in the recount of ballots from the three pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

    After the recount, the Tribunal found that Robredo’s lead over Marcos even widened by more than 15,000 votes.

    In an online briefing, Marcos said he was forced to seek Leonen’s inhibition as he supposedly did not do anything to the election protest even after the courts reopened following the lockdowns imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “I hope that Justice Leonen will really go into a period of self- examination and to see and convince himself whether or not he has been biased or he has been fair. In my view, he has been completely biased, he has been completely partisan, he has prejudged this case a long time ago,” Marcos said.

    In a related development, Calida also asked for the inhibition of Leonen from the electoral case. – With Peter Tabingo