January 23, 2018, 11:54 pm
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PET justice... biased?

AT THE Kapihan at Café Adriatico in Manila this week, we heard former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. decry the obvious bias of Supreme Court Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, the ponente of the Marcos election protest which is now pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).     

The series of decisions issued by the PET on Caguioa’s resolutions clearly demonstrated the bias of Caguioa against Marcos.

Marcos told the gathering of journalists at this weekly forum:   “It has become fairly obvious that [Justice Caguioa’s] resolutions are biased against me, and biased in favor of my oppositor...” referring to former Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robledo.  

Caguioa was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III.   Caguioa and former President Aquino were classmates from elementary to college at the Ateneo de Manila University.  

While the PET is a collegial body composed of 15 justices of the Supreme Court, it is Caguioa, who was assigned the case, who decides and issues the minute resolutions regarding the Marcos protest. Marcos then enumerated some of the orders issued by Caguioa which showed his one-sidedness in favor of Robredo. 

Right smack during Holy Week last year, April 2017, when all the banks and financial institutions were closed, Marcos learned that he had a few working days to pay his initial P36 million protest fee. Told that the Marcos protest would be dismissed if the P36 million were not paid within those days of the Holy Week, Marcos complied; paid the amount right on time.

Robredo, on the other hand, failed to pay the fee on the date mandated by the PET.   

Caguioa gave Robredo an unprecedented payment extension. “Robredo was ordered by PET to pay P7 million for her counter-protest.  Robredo failed to comply.”  

Despite this failure, Robredo was allowed an extension, when according to the PET law, the Robredo counter-protest should have been dismissed for non-payment on time.  She failed to pay. 

Further, Robredo was allowed to defer her payment, despite the law that failure to pay on time will result in the dismissal of Robredo’s counter-protest.  

To this day - nine months later - Robredo still has not managed to fully complete the payment of her deposit.  Her counter-protest has not been dismissed, despite the PET law that mandates dismissal.

Another manifestation of Caguioa’s lopsided decision was Marcos’s motion concerning the decryption and printing of ballot images in the SD cards.   This was originally opposed by Robredo’s camp.

Caguioa’s motion: Marcos has got to pay - P7 million - for the decryption costs. Paid for all the costs, Caguioa has not given the Marcos camp the printed images - which have been ready since last year.  Meanwhile, Justice Caguioa promptly released to the Robredo camp the copies of the ballot images, without so much as requiring her to pay the cost.

 “Humingi kami ng mga ballot images doon sa mga SD cards, pinagbayad kami ng P7 million. Pero nag-object ‘yung kabila.  Said we should not have those ballot images.  To move on, we paid P7 million para sa papel, para sa toner, para sa tao, etc. Tapos noong ginagawa na ‘yung ballot images, the camp of Leni Robredo, who had objected to the printing of the ballot images, was given a soft copy, na hindi babayaran. 

“Basta ibibigay na lang sa kanya ng libre ‘yung copies ng binayaran ko ng P7 million. Justice Caguioa granted it. So Robredo, meron siyang copy pero ako, who paid for it, hanggang ngayon naghihintay pa ng aming kopya,” Marcos lamented.

Another instance was when Caguioa ordered Marcos to produce 8,000 witnesses for his third cause of action (annulment of votes in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan) within a non-extendable period of five days.  After his legal team complied and submitted the names of 8,000 witnesses within the non-extendable five-day period, Caguioa merely deferred the resolution of his motion.

 “We produced 8,000 witnesses within five days.  Nagpuyat kami just to comply with his Order.  Pero ano’ng ginawa? Imbes na i-take up, they deferred, because siguro they hoped that kung hindi kami maka-come up ng 8,000 witnesses, idi-dismiss na lang.   Pero nakapag-produce kami kaya hindi nila ma-dismiss,” Marcos said.

Marcos:  “Itong patuloy na ganito,  hindi na tama ito. I do not feel that we are getting justice in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal thus far with these decisions of Justice Caguioa.  Masyado nang obvious. We tried to give him a chance. I have great respect for the justices. We always give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if we don’t agree with the PET decisions, we still comply, but the Rules do not seem to apply to the other side.”

Marcos added that after one and a half years, it is clear that the strategy of his opponent is to delay his protest in the hope that he would lose hope and throw in the towel.  But their attempts to delay the protest come with a price:  the current political instability of the country. 

“It has been almost two years and we have not yet done a recount, not even a single ballot box has been retrieved.  How can you say that it is correct for an issue as fundamental or basic as to the conduct of national elections to be kept hanging. The questions are still up in the air.

Ang mga issues not decided; two years.  Ano’ng mangyayari sa atin?  Ang tao hindi nakakasiguro kung sino talaga ang nanalo. Magdadalawang taon na. All these questions are left unanswered and it cannot be good for the stability of our political system.”

Marcos found it strange that Romeo Macalintal, lead counsel of his opponent, kept issuing unsolicited advice that he should run for a Senate position in 2019 and forego his election protest. “Why?  I was already elected vice president.  If they have nothing to hide, they should do everything in their power to let the recount begin.  What are they afraid of?”


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