One News : Poll Body Official Addresses ‘Delay’ In Marcos Case; Senators Urge Guanzon To Name Meddler

29 January 2022

By Paolo Romero, Robertzon Ramirez | One News

Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino – the ponente of the Marcos disqualification cases – described as "undue rush" the deadline for a decision set by her fellow Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, the presiding officer of the poll body's first division.

Senators are urging Commissioner Rowena Guanzon to name the senator whom she said appeared to be pressuring a fellow commissioner in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division to delay the release of the decision on the disqualification case against presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“It’s best that she names the senator, otherwise we will all be suspect,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters Friday, Jan. 28, regarding Guanzon’s disclosure in an interview that a senator could have tried to cause the delay by pressuring the ponente of the decision, Commissioner Aimee Ferolino.

Sotto said if there is proof that a member of the Senate was meddling in the affairs of the Comelec, he will ask the Senate committee on ethics to conduct an investigation.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa also said Guanzon should identify the senator and “present the evidence so it would be clear to all.”

In separate media interviews since Thursday, Jan. 27, Guanzon revealed she voted to disqualify Marcos as a presidential candidate on the ground of moral turpitude.

She said the decision should have come out as early as Jan. 17, but due to health reasons, the First Division’s ponente was unable to prepare the resolution.

As presiding commissioner of the First Division, Guanzon said she felt the need to publicize her vote on the Marcos disqualification case as her retirement on Feb. 2 may come ahead of the ruling’s release and not reflect her “dissenting opinion.”

‘Undue rush, not delay’

Breaking her silence, Ferolino addressed Guanzon’s insinuation that the First Division’s ruling on the consolidated petitions against Marcos could have been intentionally delayed, describing the deadline she set for a decision as “undue rush” and not “undue delay.”

In a letter to Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas, the ponente of the First Division presented the timeline of the Marcos case from the preliminary conference of the petitions on Jan. 7 up to the time when two of the lawyers under her tested positive for COVID-19.

Her timeline showed that cases were raffled off to her office only on Jan. 10; case records were transmitted to her office on Jan. 12, which was the same day two of her lawyers tested positive for COVID; and then the consolidated offer of evidence, the memorandum and manifestation of evidence were transmitted to her on Jan. 14.

“Given the above timelines, it is beyond the bounds of possibility to draft a comprehensive and well-reviewed resolution of the three cases in three days. Also, I cannot risk the health and well-being of my lawyers and staff, especially those who are COVID-19 positive and those experiencing symptoms,” Ferolino said in her letter to Abas.

The commissioner was referring to the Jan. 17 deadline set by Guanzon for the resolution, which she claims she and Commissioner Marlon Casquejo only learned about through Guanzon’s official Twitter account.

She emphasized that what happened in the First Division is “undue rush” and “not undue delay,” as Guanzon has projected in media.

“In all honesty, Chair, it was not only the date of the promulgation that she imposed upon me. She also consistently took liberties in telling me to adopt her opinion. It is quite appalling that Commissioner Guanzon was able to draft an opinion when the ponencia has not yet submitted the resolution and all the case records are in my possession,” Ferolino said, noting that Guanzon was “putting the cart before the horse to justify her demands.”

“In doing so, one thing is clear to me,” she said. “She (Guanzon) is trying to influence my decision and trying hard to persuade me to her direction. But I am not like her, not even close.”

As for Guanzon’s dissenting opinion, Ferolino said she has not read it because she does not want her judgment to be influenced by the presiding commissioner’s opinion.

Also, Ferolino said that the preliminary conference was belatedly held as they had to adjust with the request of Guanzon to hold it with her presence “because she wanted to personally take part in the proceeding” and that it be broadcasted live on Comelec’s official Facebook page.

She said that she has been cordial and civil with Guanzon, but the past few days compelled her to “limit” her kindness and stop entertaining the presiding commissioner.

She also requested Abas to review the appearance of Guanzon before several media outlets and her appearances on social media as she emphasized that the commissioner’s “excitement and eagerness” have taken over that she forgot about the sub judice rule.

Ferolino said Guanzon’s disclosure that she is the ponente of the consolidated cases against Marcos exposed her to possible pressure from different personalities and organizations “and will pose a threat to my safety and security.”

She said that she will do her best to release the resolution sooner as she assured Abas that the Commission will not be placed in a bad light and will be given the respect it deserves.

PFP: Probe Guanzon

For its part, Marcos’ Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) wants Guanzon investigated and penalized for releasing her unpromulgated opinion in the disqualification case before the Comelec First Division.

In a statement, PFP general counsel George Briones asked the Comelec to probe what the party described as “illegal leakage” and “undue disclosure” of an opinion in a pending case by Guanzon.

“Because of her premature disclosure or leaking of her unpromulgated dissenting opinion, Commissioner Guanzon should be disbarred, with forfeiture of her retirement benefits and life-time pension because she destroyed the reputation of the institution which these moneys come from,” Briones said.

He cited Rule 2.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which provides that “a judge should behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

“When Rowena Guanzon publicly disclosed with undue haste her minority opinion, before the submission of the other commissioners’ opinions and prior to promulgation of the complete decision, in order to put her fellow commissioners under a cloud of suspicion with her bare suspicions that an unnamed politician probably intervened is double hearsay and pure tsismis (rumor) and should be condemned by the Supreme Court as unworthy of a sitting commissioner of the Comelec,” the lawyer stressed.

Citing a previous ruling of the Supreme Court, Briones explained that the release of “unpromulgated ponencia infringes on the confidential internal deliberations of the Court,” adding that “internal deliberations of the Court are confidential.”

Briones even accused Guanzon of supporting the candidacy of Vice President Leni Robredo.

“Commissioner Guanzon has shown undue interest in this case by leaking her decision before its promulgation, to the extent that she will forfeit her retirement benefits and lifetime pension to support the candidacy of Vice President Leni Robredo who the petitioners in this case openly support speaks of how deep she is interested in this case,” he said.

“Commissioner Guanzon’s mad rush to come out with a decision of the First Division bares her true color which is yellow. She has openly sided with presidential candidate Leni Robredo, who is the candidate of petitioners, by her undue haste to come out with a decision resorting to illegally leaking her minority opinion to the news media,” he added.

Guanzon fires back

In response to Briones’ statement, Guanzon warned the PFP against threatening her, saying she is still capable of holding parties involved in the case in contempt.

“Does Bongbong Marcos know that Partido Federal is threatening me, the presiding commissioner, while his case is pending? I just might hold you in contempt, imprison you at the Manila City Jail,” she posted on Twitter.

The commissioner said that she would “unfriend” Briones on Facebook for calling her an “incorrigible narcissist” and challenged the lawyer to a debate if he thinks he is knowledgeable enough on election laws.

She emphasized that the Comelec en banc has no jurisdiction over an administrative complaint against a commissioner as she noted that she is an impeachable officer. Guanzon added that she is not afraid of getting disbarred as she is ready to live as a farmer if she will not be allowed to practice law.

She said she believes that the PFP is just trying to divert the attention of the public away from the disqualification cases against Marcos.

It was unclear whether or not Marcos sanctioned the pronouncement by his political party.

His spokesman and chief of staff, Vic Rodriguez, said they would rather wait for the release of the ruling of the Comelec First Division before commenting on the matter.

Guanzon’s fate

But election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the Comelec can penalize Guanzon for violating the confidentiality of the poll body’s internal proceedings.

“Unprecedented – first of its kind – since it is highly irregular, Guanzon should be sanctioned by the Comelec en banc for violating the confidentiality of the internal proceedings of the Comelec,” Macalintal said.

He said that he does not see any reason why the Comelec cannot hold Guanzon accountable, citing how the SC can penalize any erring fellow justices.

He explained that releasing one’s opinions to the main ruling “may open the floodgates to corruption” as it could change or influence the main ruling.

Asked if he believes that the public should be concerned about the delay in releasing the First Division’s ruling, Macalintal replied: “Yes, more on the delay and integrity of polls than Guanzon’s drama.”

What is clear is that after Guanzon’s retirement, the decision on the petitions against Marcos’ candidacy would be decided by Commissioners Ferolino and Casquejo.

“Clearly, no decision has yet been officially promulgated by the First Division as of today. Thus, if Guanzon retires on Feb. 2 without any decision yet, her aforesaid vote will no longer be counted after such retirement date,” Macalintal said.

Macalintal was one of the lawyers of Vice President Leni Robredo in the election protest filed by Marcos before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal when he lost in the May 2016 polls.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA), one of the petitioners in the disqualification petitions, urged the First Division to immediately release its decision.

“We beseech Commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Marlon Casquejo to stand on the right side of history and decide for truth, justice, and integrity – no more delays,” the CARMMA said.

Marcos skips dzBB

Marcos was unable to attend another media interview for presidential candidates – the one hosted by radio station dzBB scheduled last Friday.

Last weekend, he skipped the Jessica Soho interviews of GMA-7, the same broadcast network that runs dzBB.

This time, Marcos’ camp said there was a telecommunications issue that prevented him from being reached at his location in Davao. 

In Davao, Marcos said he is the luckiest among those running for president because he has Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as his running mate. – With Edu Punay, Elizabeth Marcelo, Edith Regalado