Manila Standard : ‘Premature disclosure is bullying’

30 January 2022

By Maricel Cruz | Manila Standard

UniTeam senatorial aspirant and SAGIP party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta on Saturday branded as “bullying” the premature disclosure of outgoing Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon of her vote to disqualify presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Marcoleta lamented Guanzon’s act of making public her position ahead of the Comelec First Division’s ruling on Marcos’ disqualification case, saying it was a clear case of partisan politics.

“It is unfortunate that even the Presiding Commissioner of a Comelec division could play partisan politics. Commissioner Guanzon’s act of prematurely disclosing her vote on the consolidated petitions to disqualify presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos (BBM) is nothing short of bullying,” the Deputy Speaker said.

On Friday, lawyer Romulo Macalintal, the lead counsel of Vice President Leni Robredo in the electoral protest filed by Marcos against her in 2016, recommended punishment against Guanzon for prematurely disclosing her vote to disqualify Marcos Jr. ahead of the First Division’s ruling.

Macalintal also said earlier Comelec en banc should look into the act of the outgoing commissioner for possible violation on the confidentiality of the poll body’s internal proceedings.

“It has now become apparent that Guanzon’s actions were calculated to bully the ponente (who already admitted that she has been pressured to adopt Guanzon’s opinion) and the concoction that a big politician is meddling in her division was all made up,” Marcoleta said.

“The government had been advising our people to be vigilant against all forms of scams and not to lose their guards against such posturings. The fact that the ‘bullying’ works on the entire electorate, this one of Guanzon is the wiliest,” he added.

Under Section 1, Part 4, Rule 18 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure, Marcoleta said it provides that the “conclusions of the Commission in any case submitted to it for decision xxx shall be reached in consultation before the case is assigned by raffle to a member for the writing of the opinion xxx.”

In practice, Marcoleta said this consultation already yields the predisposition of the members of the division.

“The rants of Guanzon unwittingly disclosed that the majority in her division is against BBM’s disqualification,” Marcoleta said.

“Guanzon’s behavior is improper as it is irresponsible, to say the least,” he said.

“As the matter involves the resolution of the case pending before her division, she should have waited for the opinion of the assigned ‘ponente’ before prematurely disclosing her vote in public. Because it has now become apparent that the decision is against her opinion, she resorted to ridiculous innuendoes that could assail the integrity of her colleagues and that of the Comelec itself,” Marcoleta pointed out.

“The Constitution provides that public officers and employees must, at all times serve the people with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency. Guanzon turned her back on this constitutional mandate. It is very obvious that she intends to sway the public into
believing a crap that influential people are interfering in the works of her division,” the lawmaker said.

In doing so, Guanzon “openly and irresponsibly weakens the foundation of our institution and propagates discontent and outrage against an imagined wrong,” he said.

“This is dangerous, and it exposes Guanzon’s disloyalty to the country and her questionable integrity in performing her sworn duty,” Marcoleta said.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that the Comelec, or any of its divisions, is a collegial body,” he added. “Collegial bodies are meant
to conduct their business in a manner that constitutes shared authority. Deliberations and discussions should be had in an atmosphere of mutual consideration among colleagues.”

“Disagreements are allowed, even encouraged, but should not be in a way to put undue pressure on the members. Guanzon mocked the rule of collegiality,” Marcoleta said.

“Also, the principle of sub judice could have been violated by Guanzon. In essence, this rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to pending judicial proceedings. This restriction applies to litigants, the public in general, and most especially the members of the Bar and the Board,” he said.

“Again, the good commissioner was the first to show disrespect to this principle despite insinuation that she is not a ‘lampang’ (feeble) lawyer,” Marcoleta said.