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MEL STA.MARIA | After VP Robredo'€™s resignation, watch the Supreme Court

Vice President Leni Robredo holds a press conference after resigning from the Cabinet. (photo by Bernard Testa,
The online news portal of TV5

In resigning from President Duterte’s cabinet, Vice President Leni Robredo said that she “had been warned of a plot to steal the Vice Presidency.” She stated that she had “chosen to ignore this and focus on the job at hand. But the events of recent days indicate that this plot is now being set into motion.”

This is a powerful statement. It warns of the gravest danger that may face the nation -- the thwarting of the people’s will. And since the position involved is the second highest public office in the land, it sends a message that the “plot” could not have been hatched by ordinary people, but by scheming, powerful and conspiring individuals with the means and influence to execute it. 

Indeed, it may involve more than persons but institutions as well -- for only an institution can bring down another institution.

To understand Vice President Robredo’s apprehension, it is inevitable that we have to start from the place where the ending may happen. And that place is the Supreme Court.     

Under the Constitution, only the Supreme Court, as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, can oust Leni Robredo from the vice presidency on the basis of the votes obtained in the election. Section 4 Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution provides that “the Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose.”

And it is quite reasonable to believe that one of the “events of the recent days” referred to by the Vice President may have been the promulgation of the Supreme Court -- through Associate Justices Peralta, Bersamin, Velasco, Brion, De Castro, Bernabe, Del Castillo, Mendoza and Perez – of that horrible decision allowing the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani -- a decision which gave imprimatur to one of President Duterte’s campaign promises.

Now, the dictator’s son Ferdinand (Bongbong) R. Marcos Jr. is banking on this same Supreme Court -- or at least a majority of its members -- to oust Vice President Leni Robredo and proclaim him as the winner for the position.

This is not to say that he has no right to file an election protest. But  the incoherence of his position – the rejection of the result generated by the machine based on the people’s votes as to the vice presidency but acceptance of the same machine’s  result  insofar as the presidency is concerned, on the same ballot -- betrays its weakness.

And, without the case still being heard on its merits, Bongbong smugly declared, “I will eventually take my seat that is being kept warm for me.”

He should not have said that because it generated so many speculations. For instance, one wonders:  does this arrogance come from Bongbong’s sense of entitlement because he is a Marcos, or could this possibly be coming from something deeper, a more sinister, albeit for him reassuring, plan that will soon unravel before us?

It is difficult to ignore President Duterte’s unapologetic support for the Marcoses. During his China state visit, President Duterte proudly introduced Bongbong as “the next vice-president if he wins his protest.” And this was made in the same sub-judice way the President publicly expressed his position favoring the Marcos burial even while the case was pending with the Supreme Court. 

How much influence these sub-judice statements had on the majority of the Supreme Court justices in the burial-case was a serious and legitimate concern to many. Will it happen again in this Marcos-election-protest-case in the Supreme Court if indeed such sub judice statements are a factor?

And surely, the justices of the Supreme Court are not unaware of the friendship between President Duterte and Bongbong.

In fact, just after the election, President Duterte admitted that he offered Bongbong a cabinet position. “I promised him” President Duterte said in one encounter with media. Not only that. At that time, he did not want to appoint Leni Robredo to a cabinet position because he did  not wish to “hurt the feelings” of Bongbong.

It seems that the President values his ties with the Marcoses over and above the prospects of fostering reconciliation, cooperation and inclusivity during his term.

One other thing. The Supreme Court’s track record in cases involving high-profile political personalities appears to be ominous for Vice President Leni Robredo.

This is the Supreme Court whose majority members are perceived -- rightly or wrongly -- to be always siding with the “elite,” the rich, the privileged, and/or people highly placed in the political ladder. And this perception has basis. 

It acquitted former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and former First Lady Imelda Marcos, granted bail to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, adjudged absolute pardon for former President Joseph Estrada, excused Mayor Junjun Binay from sanction despite abandonment of the “Condonation doctrine,” and decided that Congressman Ronald Singson cannot be ousted as a representative because his drug-related-conviction did not concern a crime involving moral turpitude. 

This is also the Supreme Court whose majority ruled against the coconut farmers and in favor of Danding Cojuangco in the coco-levy case because, among others, there was no showing that the latter was one of the “close associates of President Marcos” -- prompting former Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, now the Ombudsman, to say that “the argument that Cojuangco was not the subordinate or close associate of the Marcoses is the biggest joke to hit the country.”

And more recently, it is the Supreme Court which decided that the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose regime looted our national treasury and ushered in a period of summary execution, forced disappearance,  torture and gross violation of human rights against the Filipino people,  be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani

Vice President Leni Robredo does not belong to the “elite,” the rich, or the powerful. She only has the people who voted for her as the source of her power. Given this Supreme Court perception, is it totally unjustified for people to be apprehensive as regards how the Supreme Court, sitting as an electoral tribunal, will decide the Vice Presidency and Leni’s fate?  

I truly hope that the Supreme Court will come out with a decision truly uplifting our national spirit and affirming the sovereignty that resides on the people.   

In the meantime, we seem to be paralyzed again by these latest developments,  and the need to process everything never appears to be fast enough for our brains to comprehend. We find ourselves asking once more,  “what now” and “what next”? Well, we should not  hold our breaths till we turn blue. We must think and act fast because eventually, it will affect us and the country. Yes, it is exhausting, and heaven knows it can be very frustrating. But at the end of the day, there are things which we simply cannot allow to happen again. So it is up to us to make sure that they do not.