As earlier anticipated, the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has decided to withhold the original copies of the decrypted ballot images and other documents from former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. despite previously requiring him to pay for the cost of decryption and printing of the images.
In a Resolution dated 10 January 2018 but was received by Marcos’ lawyer only on 17 January 2018, the Tribunal said it was keeping the original copies of the documents and while it allowed Marcos to get copies, it ruled that he should again pay for the “incidental costs” of securing the soft copies and the photocopies.
“…..(t)he Tribunal Resolved to allow protestant to secure photocopies or soft copies of the decrypted ballot images, election returns and other reports for the protested clustered precincts of the pilot provinces, subject to the payment of incidental costs,” the Resolution stated.
It added, “(h)owever, the custody of the official, printed and authenticated copies of the decrypted ballot images, election returns and audit logs from the protested clustered precincts of the pilot provinces should remain with the Tribunal for the conduct of the revision proceedings pursuant to the 2010 PET Rules.”
Atty. Victor Rodriguez, Marcos’ spokesperson, said the recent resolution is a confirmation of the bias of the case’s ponente, Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, in his handling of Marcos’ election protest.
“Senator Marcos had already made public last week the obvious bias of Justice Caguioa in his case and he said he would not be surprised if this kind of resolution would come out and he was correct. This is another clear confirmation that he is indeed biased against Senator Marcos and in favor of Mrs. (Leni) Robredo,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez explained that while the PET is a collegial body composed of 15 justices of the SC, it is Caguioa, as the ponente in charge of the case, who decides and issues the minute resolutions regarding his protest.
Caguioa was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III. They were classmates from elementary to college at the Ateneo De Manila University.
Rodriguez asserted that he could not the logic why the PET would deprive Senator Marcos of the documents that the Tribunal required him to pay only to give the same documents to Robredo for free.
“It was Senator Marcos who moved for the decryption and Mrs. Robredo even opposed it. When Tribunal granted it, it required Senator Marcos to pay for the cost of decryption which has now amounted to P7 million and still counting. But Justice Caguioa does not want to give us the documents we paid for saying the same should stay with the Tribunal and if we want copies, we should pay again,” he stressed.
“In contrast, Justice Caguioa had granted as early as November 7, 2017 Mrs. Robredo’s motion to secure the soft copies without ordering her to pay a single centavo. Indeed, Senator Marcos has not been given justice in his election protest,” Rodriguez lamented.
In the same 10 January 2018 Resolution, the Tribunal denied Marcos’ motion for reconsideration on its ruling granting soft copies to Robredo without her shouldering part of the decryption cost. “So kami na pinagbayad ng lahat – toner, papel, sweldo – ayaw ibigay sa amin at pinagbabayad ulit kung gusto naming ng kopya. Si Mrs. Robredo na nag-oppose ay matagal nang binigyan ng kopya at libre pa itong binigay sa kanya,” Rodriguez remarked.
Last week, Marcos in a news forum in Manila condemned the “obvious bias” of Caguioa as he enumerated some resolutions he issued which he said were indicative of a pattern of bias against him and in favor of his opponent.
Aside from the inordinate delay in his election protest, Marcos said some of the clear manifestations of Caguioa’s bias were requiring him to pay his P36 million protest fee during the Holy Week break, ordering to produce 8,000 witnesses within a non-extendible period of only five (5) days, deferring his motion for technical evaluation of the Election Day Computerized Voters’ List (EDCVL) without offering any explanation, among others.
In contrast, Caguioa has been so lenient with Robredo - giving her time to pay for her protest fee when the Rules provide that non-payment may be a ground for dismissal of the counter-protest, resolving her motions after only a few days from filing and giving due course to all her motions that are clearly dilatory.
“They have delayed the case for almost two years without any clear reason. We have complied with all the orders despite the inequity of some it. But until now we have yet to see a single ballot box. Certainly our case does not stand on an equal footing here and it is obvious that our ponente is playing favorite. This kind of injustice has no place in a court of law, especially in the Supreme Court,” Rodriguez said.