Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen has shown dogged determination in dismissing the election protest of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo.
The dismissal theme runs from Leonen’s draft reflections he circulated to his fellow magistrates on July 10, 2017 to the draft decision he presented last January 12.
On February 16, Leonen got what he wanted after the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) voted to throw out Marcos’ protest.
The Manila Times sources said Leonen became hysterical as he pleaded with the members of the tribunal to vote on his draft decision without delay.
The sources claimed Leonen ratcheted up the pressure and tried to deprive the justices the time to study the documents in the case that took up 40 folders.
Leonen also gave newly appointed Justice Jhoseph Lopez just 14 days to participate in the voting and 35 days for his other colleagues to go through his 97-page draft decision.
The Times learned that eight justices voted for the dispositive portion of the decision to dismiss the Marcos protest: Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and Justices Rodil Zalameda, Henry Inting, Mario Lopez, Edgardo de los Santos, Samuel Gaerlan, Ricardo Rosario and Jhoseph Lopez.
Seven other justices accepted the decision in its entirety: Estela Perlas Bernabe, Rosmari Carandang, Amy Lazaro Javier, Alexander Gesmundo, Ramon Paul Hernando, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Leonen himself.
The Times learned that only Gaerlan and Mario Lopez submitted their reflections during the voting last February 16.
Gaerlan dwelt on the guidelines the tribunal must establish if it rules to annul an election. The guidelines, however, will not apply to the case of Marcos, who lost the 2016 vice presidential polls to Robredo.
Justice Mario Lopez concentrated on statistics and figures, including the 50-1 threshold of the recount and revision of ballots.
From the start, Leonen was out to dismiss the Marcos protest. His 25-page draft reflection alone showed that Leonen was gunning for a dismissal, citing Marcos’ failure to specify the acts of fraud, anomalies, or irregularities that he alleged.
To celebrate the dismissal, Leonen ordered pizza and soft drinks for the members of the tribunal and their staff.
It was the first time Leonen hosted such a celebration.
Sources told the Times that in the draft decision, Leonen wrote, “Statistics Never Lie But Lovers Often Do,” in ruling that Marcos lost because there was no substantial recovery during the Second Cause of Action which is the Recount or Revision of Ballots.
Leonen ignored the report that the ballot boxes from the three pilot provinces of Camarines Norte, Iloilo and Negros Oriental were “violated.”
The so-called “wet ballots” were identified to have come from the Bicol Region, Robredo’s bailiwick.
The tribunal confirmed the findings of its Ad Hoc Committee-Legal Team that the ballots in question were indeed violated.
“Note the Incident Report dated May 25, 2018 re: Clustered Precinct No. 36, Brgy. Lupi, Tinambac, Camarines which reads ‘4 black zip ties used to seal ballot box instead of Comelec red plastic seals; plastic seals found inside ballot box, cannot be found; election return envelope not inside ballot box, cannot be found; envelopes for MOV (minutes of voting) and torn ballots appear to have been previously opened; and Voter’s Receipt box is missing; Voter’s Receipts found scattered inside ballot box; Direct the Revision Committee xxxx to continue with the revision of paper ballots; and direct the Municipal Treasurer of Tinambac, Camarines Sur to explain the observations in the subject Incident Report within ten days from notice hereof,” the PET pointed out.
In a resolution dated April 10, 2019, the tribunal adopted the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee to “confirm the actions taken on the following ballot boxes upon instruction of the PET Ad Hoc Committee-Legal Team in conformity with resolutions on previous incident reports involving wet/damaged ballots/election paraphernalia and in order to speed up the revision proceedings of the ballot boxes/clustered precincts, which are similar in nature, using decrypted images of ballots, elections returns provided by the Comelec.”
The Robredo camp said the ballots could have been damaged during a storm and that the audit logs were not included in the ballot boxes.
Annulment of elections
The Leonen decision also discussed the annulment of elections in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.
Leonen reportedly gave weight to the contention that due process cannot be given to Marcos for the third cause of action since the revision of ballots and reception of evidence had been concluded and no substantial recovery was made by Marcos.
This involves Marcos’ failure to prove that there was fraud committed in the ballots, which requires 50 percent of the ballots plus 1.
Leonen adopted the claim of the Robredo camp that changing the rules in the middle of the case is not a good precedent since it will favor only Marcos.
Robredo’s counter-protest would also be affected by changing the rules, Leonen argued.
He also claimed that annulling the votes for vice president in the 2016 polls would cast serious doubts on the results of the senatorial, partylist, and the presidential elections.
There were affidavits presented from the Mindanao provinces supporting the allegations of fraud, but Leonen reportedly countered that Marcos failed to show probable cause.
Leonen also noted in his draft that suffrage is at the heart and soul of a democratic process, and that losing candidates must accept their defeat.
The Times tried to get Leonen to comment through the Supreme Court Public Information Office, but he has not replied.