Manila Standard Today - Bongbong gets going

11 January 2018

By Jojo Robles | Manila Standard Today 

I’ll make it so simple that even a Yellow can understand it: If Leni Robredo won as vice president in May 2016, a recount of the same votes now, nearly two years later, will only confirm that she did.

And if Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who is protesting Robredo’s victory, is paying for the recount, why can’t the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, get to it right away? What seems to be the problem, really?

Marcos yesterday identified the problem—and the reason for the delay. He is Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, who was designated by the tribunal to supervise the Marcos electoral protest.

Caguioa, according to Marcos, has done nothing but delay the progress of his protest. That, and rule in favor of his opponent Robredo at every turn.

In the many months since Marcos filed his protest soon after the elections, the son for the former president has quietly and religiously complied with every requirement sought by Caguioa and the PET. It had gotten to the point where his supporters were already wondering if Marcos was willing to let Robredo consume her entire six-year term while he gave in to every single whim and demand of the tribunal.

All through that time, Marcos was also very careful not to say anything remotely against Caguioa or the PET. That changed yesterday, when Marcos came out swinging not only against the dilatory tactics of his opponent—an old contention of his— but also against Caguioa, who seems so hopelessly biased in Robredo’s favor that the justice merely agrees with whatever move to delay the proceedings coming from the vice president-under-protest.

“There has been a disturbing series of decisions made by Justice Caguioa that were clearly unfair and unjust,” Marcos said in a press conference. “It’s become very obvious that the strategy has been to delay, delay and delay.”

Of course, it’s very easy to see who benefits from delays in the disposition of the Marcos protest. That would be Robredo, whose simple strategy is to file motion after motion through her lawyers in a bid to put up legal roadblocks to stop the protest from proceeding.

The circumstances of Caguioa’s designation, of course, have long been questioned, albeit not by Marcos and his camp. The justice is a former Ateneo classmate of the president who appointed him, Noynoy Aquino, who is known for his near-pathological loyalty to the people with whom he went to school.

How Caguioa ended up taking charge of the Marcos protest case is also suspicious. Caguioa supposedly won the case in a raffle conducted by a court then still under the influence of another Aquino appointee and former classmate, the currently embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

If Caguioa had any sense of propriety at all back then, he’d have refused to handle the Marcos protest when it was given to him, on the ground that he was an appointee of the president who backed Robredo’s candidacy to the hilt. And if he had developed that same sense of decency since then, he would step down now, since he has proven by his agreeing to Robredo’s dilatory tactics that he cannot decide the case with any sense of urgency—which is truly scandalous, given the amount of time that’s already passed with not one ballot being counted again.

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I don’t really know if Caguioa can still be shamed into getting off his backside and get cracking on the protest case. But I applaud Marcos for finally declaring that he will no longer allow the justice to sit on his protest and wait for him to abandon it, say, by running for another office in the midterm elections next year.

Because that, I am convinced, is the ultimate goal of Robredo’s camp: To make Marcos so disheartened with the inaction of Caguioa that he will do what both Miriam Santiago and Loren Legarda did before him, which is to settle for seeking a Senate seat in the next scheduled elections.

Marcos himself shot down any such plans. “Why will I run for senator when I already won as vice president?” he said.

Now this is what Marcos’ supporters want to hear from their candidate: That he will not only do everything the law tells him to do, like putting up the money to pay for his protest (which he did, on a Good Friday, no less, upon PET/Caguioa’s instructions), but that he will also fight for them to the very end by not seeking to grab the next best position that comes along in order to stay relevant in the national political conversation.

Marcos’ supporters also want to see him take his protest to the limit not only because they want to see him ultimately win it, but also because it will prove to them that he has finally come into his own as a political figure. And yesterday’s fighting pronouncements from Marcos will go a long way towards convincing them that he is finally worthy of the votes they gave him in 2016, instead of just being a stand-in for his late father.

As for Robredo, Caguioa and the rest of the gang that is keeping the Marcos protest from proceeding as it should, they may soon have their comeuppance. Thwarting the people’s will is never a good strategy, for anyone.