Former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos Jr. today decried the “obvious bias” of Supreme Court Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, the ponente of his election protest which is now pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), against him and in favor of former Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.
Speaking at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Café Adriatico in Malate, Manila, Marcos said the series of decisions issued by the PET on his election protest clearly demonstrated the bias of Caguioa against him.
“It has now become fairly obvious that his resolutions are biased against me and biased in favour my oppositor,” he told journalists at the weekly forum.
Caguioa was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III. They 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, Marcos said it is Caguioa, who was assigned the case, who decides and issues the minute resolutions regarding his protest.
Marcos then enumerated some of the Orders issued by Caguioa which showed his one-sidedness in favor of Robredo. He said that as early as April 2017, the PET gave him only two working days to pay his initial P36 million protest fee. That was right smack during Holy Week of last year when all the banks were closed. Despite this, he managed to comply with the required fee because under the PET Rules, his protest would be dismissed if he failed to pay on time.
Robredo, on the other hand, did not to pay on the deadline set by the PET but Caguioa gave her an extension.
“Yung aking kalaban pinagbayad sya sa counter-protest nya na P7 million pero hindi sya nagbayad. Pero binigyan sya ng extension. Pero hindi pa rin nakapagbayad at dinefer pa rin. Sa batas sinasabi kapag hindi pa nakapagbayad, ididismiss na yung kaso,” he said.
To this day — 9 months later, Robredo has still not managed to fully complete the payment of her deposit.
Another manifestation of Caguioa’s lopsided decision, Marcos pointed out, was his motion concerning the decryption and printing of ballot images in the SD cards, a move that was originally opposed by Robredo’s camp.
Marcos said that Caguioa granted his motion on the condition that he paid for all the costs involved for the decryption process. To date, Marcos has paid additional PhP 7 million for the decryption costs. Despite having paid for all the costs involved in the decryption and printing, Marcos said his legal team is still waiting for Caguioa’s order to give them the printed images — which has been ready since last year. However, when Robredo asked for the soft copies of the ballot images, Caguioa immediately granted her request — without requiring her to pay a single centavo.
“Yung isa naman humingi kami ng mga ballot images doon sa mga SD cards, pinagbayad kami ng P7 million. Pero nag-object yung kabila at sinabi we should not have those ballot images but it was granted so we paid P7 million para sa papel, para sa toner, para sa tao etc. Tapos nung ginagawa na yung ballot images, the camp of Leni Robredo who had objected to the printing of the ballot images humingi ng soft copy na hindi babayaran. Basta ibibigay na lang sa kanya ng libre yung binayaran ko. Unfortunately Justice Caguioa granted it. So sya meron sya copy pero ako na who paid for it, hanggang ngayon naghihintay pa sa aming kopya,” he lamented.
Another instance was when Caguioa ordered him 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 (5) days. However, after his legal team complied with the Order and submitted the names of the 8,000 witnesses within the non-extendable 5 day period, Caguioa merely deferred the resolution of his motion.
“We produced 8,000 witnesses within five days. Pinuyatan namin iyan just to comply with his Order. Pero anong ginawa? Imbes na i-take up, dinefer because siguro they hoped that kung hindi kami maka come up ng 8,000 witnesses, ididismiss na lang pero nakapagproduce kami kaya hindi nila madismiss,” he said.
He further stated, “(i)tong patuloy na ganito ay sabi ko hindi na tama ito. I do not feel that we are getting justice in the Tribunal thus far with this decisions of Justice Caguioa. Kaya palagay ko masyado na obvious. We tried to give him a chance. I have great respect for the justices and we always give them the benefit of the doubt. Kahit we don’t agree with the 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 comes 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 hindi pa nadedecide, magdadalawang taon na ganyan pa rin. Anong mangyayari sa atin kasi 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,” he pointed out.
Marcos found it strange that Romeo Macalintal, lead counsel of his opponent, kept issuing unsolicited advise that he should run for a Senate position in 2019 and forego his election protest. “Bakit ko naman gagawin iyan? 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?", he said.
When asked what legal remedies he would take regarding Justice Caguioa, Marcos said it is up to his legal team. But he admitted that “something has to be done soon para naman pantay ang pagtrato.”