By Mario Casayuran
Members of the opposition slammed on Thursday former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for questioning the credibility of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) regarding the election protest he filed against Vice President Leni Robredo.
“Hindi maganda na kwestyunin mo ang kredibilidad ng PET kung hindi pabor sa iyo ang mga desisyon,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP) and a staunch critic of the Marcoses, said. (It is not proper to question the credibility of the PET for its decisions that are not favorable to you.)
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a former Senate president, said Marcos must learn to accept the decision of the PET, whether it is adverse or favorable.
“It’s part of our judicial process. Sometimes, we may get the short end of the stick, but that’s the way court processes go and as a former lawmaker, he should know better,” said Drilon, who once served as the Justice Secretary under the late president Corazon Aquino.
In September, Marcos’s camp lauded the PET after it denied with finality the bid of Vice President Robredo to reverse its earlier ruling finding sufficiency in Marcos’s election protest. Now he wants to have the PET chairman replaced, Drilon observed.
Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said it is unfair for Marcos to cast a doubt on the integrity of the PET, which is composed of Supreme Court justices, whenever decisions do not go his way.
‘’Bakit noon puro pabor sa kanya ang desisyon, may narinig ba siyang reklamo galing kay VP Leni Robredo?” he asked. (When the PET had made decisions that favored him (Marcos), did he even hear a whimper of protest from Vice President Robredo?)
The other day, Marcos decried the “obvious bias” of Supreme Court Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, the ponente of his election protest which is now pending before the PET.
“It has now become fairly obvious that his resolutions are biased against me and biased in favor of my oppositor,” he said.
Caguioa was appointed to his position by former president Benigno Aquino III. They were classmates from elementary to college at the Ateneo De Manila University.
Robredo ran under the pro-Aquino LP slate in the 2016 presidential elections.
While the PET is a collegial body composed of 15 justices of the Supreme Court, Marcos said it is Caguioa who was assigned to the case, decides and issues the minute resolutions regarding his protest.
Marcos then enumerated some of the orders issued by Caguioa which he found to favor Robredo.
As early as April 2017, he said, the PET gave him only two working days to pay his initial P36 million protest fee. That was right smack during Holy Week of last year when all the banks were closed. Despite this, he managed to comply with the required fee otherwise, under the PET rules, his protest would be dismissed if he failed to pay on time.
He complained that Robredo, on the other hand, did not have to pay on the deadline set by the PET; Caguioa even gave her an extension.
“Yung aking kalaban pinagbayad sya sa counter-protest nya na P7 million pero hindi sya nagbayad. Pero binigyan sya ng extension. Pero hindi pa rin nakapagbayad at dini-defer pa rin. Sa batas sinasabi kapag hindi pa nakapagbayad, idi-dismiss na yung kaso,” he said. (My opponent was asked to P7 million for her counter-protest but she did not pay. She was even given an extension. Although she has not pay her fee, the payment period was deferred. The law says that the case should be dismissed when you fail to pay.)
‘’To this day, nine months later, Robredo has still not managed to fully complete the payment of her deposit,’’ he pointed out.
Another manifestation of Caguioa’s lopsided decision was his motion concerning the decryption and printing of ballot images in the SD cards, a move that was originally opposed by Robredo’s camp, Marcos said.
He added that Caguioa granted his motion on the condition that he paid for all the costs involved for the decryption process.
Marcos said he has paid additional P7 million for the decryption costs.
Despite having paid for all the costs involved in the decryption and printing, Marcos said his legal team is still waiting for Caguioa’s order to give them the printed images—which has been ready since last year.
However, when Robredo asked for the soft copies of the ballot images, Caguioa immediately granted her request—without requiring her to pay a single centavo, Marcos stressed.
He said “after one and a half years, it is clear that the strategy is to delay the protest in the hope that I would lose hope and throw in the towel.’’
Marcos warned that their attempts to delay the protest come with a price: The current political instability of the country.
“It has been almost two years and we have not yet done a recount, not even a single ballot box has been retrieved. How can you say that it is correct for an issue as fundamental or basic as to the conduct of national elections to be kept hanging. The questions are still up in the air. All these questions are left unanswered and it cannot be good for the stability of our political system,” he pointed out.
Marcos also said he found it strange that Romeo Macalintal, lead counsel of his opponent, kept issuing unsolicited advice that he should run for a Senate position in 2019 and forego his election protest.
“Bakit ko naman gagawin iyan? (Why should I do that?) I was already elected Vice President. If they have nothing to hide, they should do everything in their power to let the recount begin. What are they afraid of?” he said.
When asked what legal remedies he would take regarding Justice Caguioa, Marcos said it is up to his legal team.
He, however, admitted that “something has to be done soon para naman pantay ang pagtrato (so that everybody would be treated fairly).’’
Tags: Benigno Aquino III, Benjamin Caguioa, Ferdinand Bong Bong Marcos Jr., Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Justice Caguioa, Leni Robredo, Marcos, pet, President Corazon Aquino, Presidential Electoral Tribunal, Supreme Court, the PET, Vice President Leni Robredo, Vice President Robredo