By Jomar Canlas, TMT | The Manila Times
An associate justice of the Supreme Court (SC) seeks to inhibit as ponente or member in charge of the election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa’s plan came about as he defended himself from allegations of conspiracy and bad faith in handling the case, which is pending before the SC that sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
President Rodrigo Duterte last week said he would resign as President, but only if Marcos succeeded him in Malacañang.
In an internal memorandum addressed to Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and the other justices of the en banc, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, Caguioa said he would recuse himself from the case as member in charge to avoid any suspicion against his person.
He, however, clarified that he would continue to participate in the election protest filed by Marcos against Robredo over results of the race for vice president in the 2016 elections.
The ponente is the magistrate whose draft ruling in a case is voted upon by the en banc.
Caguioa wrote the internal memorandum days ahead of the filing of a motion for inhibition by Marcos against him over his alleged biases.
In his extremely urgent motion to inhibit, Marcos said he had discovered that Caguioa’s wife, Pier Angela “Gel” Caguioa, was not only anti-Marcos but also an ardent supporter of Robredo, having actively campaigned for her during the May 2016 elections.
“This is, in my mind, for the best, as any resolution on this sensitive issue would certainly give rise to another round of politicking, and it is ideal that this be resolved by the en banc with me no longer being the member-in-charge,” the associate justice said.
Caguioa pointed out that he had been very fair from the start as ponente when the case was raffled off to him.
“From the beginning, I have been vilified and pilloried in both the press and social media as having intentionally delayed the start of the revision process and that, to date, I continue to delay and derail the process,” he said.
According to him, a preliminary conference was held in June 2017 or immediately after all legal questions on sufficiency of allegations in the protest and timeliness of a counter-protest and answer to the same “had been subjected to a series of submissions of pleadings by the contending parties, and finally resolved.”
“At the same time, my office closely coordinated and worked with PET commissioners and the Senate Electoral Tribunal in the drafting of the rules and guidelines for the conduct of the revision and preliminary appreciation of ballots,” Caguioa said.
He said they had revised close to 2,000 ballot boxes in just three months.
Caguioa added that they expected the revision of ballots from precincts in pilot provinces to be concluded by October to November this year, barring any unforeseen events.
“This therefore belies any imputation of delay,” he said.
“I have been a good soldier, so to speak, and have handled this PET matter for the better part of two years, with all the professionalism, impartiality, competency and wisdom expected of me as a member of the court that sits as the tribunal,” Caguioa noted.
In his protest, Marcos assailed the election results in 39,221 clustered precincts — 36,465 of which is covered by a manual count and judicial revision. He wants the results in the remaining 2,756 precincts invalidated.
Based on Commission on Elections data, the 39,221 clustered precincts are composed of 132,446 precincts.
Marcos lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes. He later accused her later of benefitting from massive electoral fraud such as pre-shading of ballots, pre-loading of Secure Digital cards, misreading of ballots and malfunctioning of vote counting machines or VCMs.
He also claimed that there was cheating based on the “abnormally high” unaccounted for votes or undervotes for the position of vice president.