The Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has junked the plea of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for Associate Justice Mario Victor Leonen to inhibit himself from the politician’s election protest challenging the proclamation of Leni Robredo as the duly elected vice president in the 2016 polls.
In a 30-page resolution, the PET also denied the motion of Marcos for the electoral tribunal to have his poll protest re-raffled, saying “to move for the inhibition of a justice because of a perceived notion of bias or partiality against a party based on past decisions would not hold water.”
“Unanimously, we deny these motions to inhibit,” the PET said, referring to the extremely urgent motion for inhibition of Leonen on ground of the latter’s alleged “bias and partiality.”
Marcos sought the inhibition of Leonen, claiming the way the magistrate’s handled the election protest showed that he “will not be a fair and impartial ponente.”
Marcos cited Leonen’s dissenting opinion in Ocampo vs Enriquez or the burial case of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, which supposedly shows Leonen’s bias and partiality against the former senator and his family.
Aside from Marcos, Solicitor General Jose Calida also sought the inhibition of Leonen, accusing the magistrate of prejudging the participation of the Marcos family in plunder where they were exiled.
In dismissing the motion for inhibition, the PET ruled that “None of protestant and the Solicitor General’s arguments cited a clear ground to warrant Justice Leonen’s inhibition under the Rules.”
“Protestant urges Justice Leonen to voluntarily inhibit. However, a movant seeking the inhibition of a magistrate is duty-bound to present clear and convincing evidence of bias to justify such a request. Protestant failed to do so,” the PET declared.
The electoral tribunal also pointed out that there is no rule requiring that an election protest should be decided within 20 months or twelve months.
“The allegation of undue delay is severely unfounded,” the PET said.
The PET emphasized that the tribunal is a collegial body and decisions are not rendered in Justice’s individual’s capacity but are, instead, arrived at through a majority vote of the Supreme Court’s members. “The member-in-charge simply recommends the action taken,” it said.
The PET also found it “deeply disturbing” that Calida and Marcos shared a “mistaken” view of its processes in connection with the vice presidential election protest.
The tribunal said Marcos and Calida misconstrued the meaning of bias when they accused Leonen of partiality in handling Marcos poll protest against Robredo.
“Bias means a preconceived notion, which may be favorable or unfavorable to a party. Bias does not pertain to an instance when this Tribunal does not rule however you wish it to,” the PET said.
The resolution was signed by all sitting justices except Justices Rosmari Carandang and Amy Lazaro-Javier, who were on wellness leave at the time.