The Manila Times : Marcos case ponente fires back at Guanzon

29 January 2022

By William Depasupil | The Manila Times

THE ponente or writer of the resolution of the three consolidated disqualification cases against presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) lashed out at a fellow commissioner who had accused her of delaying the issuance of a ruling.

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Commissioner Aimee Ferrolino turned the tables on First Division Presiding Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, saying in a letter that Guanzon "consistently took liberties in telling me to adopt her opinion."

The letter, dated January 28 and addressed to Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas, was revealed by Ferrolino on Friday.

On Thursday, Guanzon revealed that she voted to disqualify Marcos without waiting for Ferrolino to come out with the resolution on the consolidated cases. She said she suspects somebody powerful was trying to delay the issuance of the decision.

Ferrolino countered in her letter: "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."

Guanzon "even issued a Memorandum incorporating her separate opinion on a resolution that is yet to be released. The Presiding Commissioner of the First Division is putting the cart before the horse to justify her demands," she continued.

"In doing so, one thing is clear to me, she is trying to influence my decision and trying hard to persuade me to her direction," Ferrolino said. "But I am not like her, not even close."

She said she did not read Guanzon's separate opinion "as I do not want my judgment to be influenced by her opinion nor other people's opinion."

She also belied Guanzon's claim that the First Division's commissioners agreed to schedule the promulgation on the Marcos case on January 17, saying "it was Presiding Commissioner herself who set that date and imposed the same upon me and Commissioner Marlon Casquejo."

She said the 15 days given to her to draft a resolution is applicable only to a single case, not to the three consolidated cases.

"[T]here is still reasonable time for my office to craft an impartial resolution of a complex and highly rated case," Ferrolino said.

If someone is to bear the blame for the delay in crafting the resolution, it should be Guanzon, she said.

"The preliminary conference could have been set on an earlier date. But the same could not be done to accommodate the Presiding Commissioner's caprices. The schedule of the proceeding was adjusted in time for her arrival in Manila because she wanted to personally take part in the proceeding and that it be broadcasted live on Facebook," Ferrolino said.

Ferrolino asked Abas to review the appearance of Guanzon before various media outlets and on social media sites.

"Her excitement and eagerness have taken over her that she may have forgotten the Sub Judice Rule," she said.

Ferrolino said Guanzon's disclosure that she was the ponente "will expose me to possible pressure from different personalities and organizations and will pose a threat to my safety and security."

Also on Friday, Guanzon challenged Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) legal counsel George Briones in a television debate over his claim that her decision to disclose her vote was an illegal act.

Marcos is the Partido Federal's standard-bearer.

"If he thinks he is brighter than me he should agree [to the debate]," Guanzon said in her Twitter post, referring to Briones.

In a text to The Manila Times on Friday, veteran election lawyer Manuelito Luna said Guanzon may have violated the Comelec's Internal Rules and the Rules of Procedure in making her vote public ahead of a promulgation.

"Her motive is also suspect," Luna said. "Why go public when the matter is sub judice?"

Luna said Guanzon should have brought her concern before the division itself "if she thinks that there is something fishy going on."

Guanzon is due to retire on February 2, together with Abas and Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr.

A candidate in Marcos' Senate ticket, Larry Gadon, said any decision by the First Division to disqualify Marcos would be void because of Guanzon's premature disclosure.

Gadon told members of the Quezon City Press Club during a virtual press briefing that the Supreme Court must take action against Guanzon.

In a related development, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center Executive Director Cezar Mancao 2nd on Friday told the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System that the Smartmatic system has been breached.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez has been insisting that Comelec's data servers have not been hacked.

"There was no hacking because they were offline. We agree to that at this time, and we also have found out that there was indeed a breach of the system as we have gathered from our sources," Mancao stated.

Sen. Maria Imelda Josefa "Imee" Marcos and Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. who presided over the hearing granted Mancao's request for an executive session since he will be presenting classified data from his investigation.

"We believe that there is really a need for us to take the inquiry to a higher level in order to zero-in on the source of the information," Mancao said.

Since 2010, Smartmatic has been providing Comelec with an automated election platform and technology. Attempts to block the company from participating as a service provider after it was involved in a controversy failed.

With Moises Cruz and Arlie O. Calalo