Mark the words of Marcos
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2018 - 12:00am

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. attended our first breakfast forum for this new year 2018 at Kapihan sa Manila Bay held last Wednesday at Cafe Adriatico in Malate, Manila. Marcos just returned from his recent trip to the United Kingdom where he and his wife Lisa Araneta attended the graduation of their eldest son Sandro from the London School of Economics.

When they came back after an almost month-long vacation, the ex-Senator learned to his extreme dismay there is still no progress on his pending protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) against the victory of Vice President Leni Robredo. The 15-man Supreme Court (SC) have yet to sit en banc as PET on Marcos’ recount petition he filed on June 28, 2016.

The son of deposed president, the late Ferdinand Marcos, he run but lost to former Camarines Sur Congresswoman Robredo by a slim margin of 263,473 votes during the May 2016 vice-presidential elections. From the official election returns, Marcos claimed there were as much as three million null votes deprived from him during the VP contest.

In his PET petition, Marcos sought the recount of votes in three provinces – Iloilo, Negros Oriental and Camarines Sur, Robredo’s bailiwick where the ex-senator supposedly got zero votes. Likewise, Marcos sought a technical examination of the election returns from three provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), namely, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan.

Marcos lamented nary among these provinces went through a recount of votes even after his camp have already shelled out the required P36 million for this purpose. “It has been almost two years and we have not yet done a recount, not even a single ballot box has been retrieved,” he rued.

In particular, Marcos complained against the alleged obvious bias of SC associate justice Benjamin Caguioa as designated presiding officer of the PET assigned to resolve his election protest. Marcos noted as “disturbing pattern” the way Caguiao handed down rules that patently favored his opponent.

Conceding he is no lawyer, Marcos enumerated in detail what his battery of lawyers perceived as the pattern of bias demonstrated by the PET presiding officer. First, Marcos recalled, his camp was asked to pay a P36-million recount fee on a Good Friday when most banks were closed for the Holy Week. On the other hand, he noted wryly, the camp of VP Robredo was only asked to pay P7 million. When the Robredo camp failed to pay on time, he deplored, the PET twice deferred the deadline set for his opponent.

In another instance, Marcos decried the PET also having deferred hearing his electoral protest even after his camp managed to produce “8,000 witnesses” within the five days given by the PET. After his legal team complied with the PET order, Caguioa merely deferred the resolution of his motion, Marcos deplored.

In yet another manifestation of Caguioa’s pro-Robredo ruling, Marcos pointed out, was his motion concerning the decryption and printing of ballot images in the SD cards, a move that was originally opposed by Robredo’s lawyers. Caguioa granted his lawyers’ motion on condition that he pay for all the costs involved for the decryption process. 

Thus, Marcos paid an additional P7 million for the decryption costs. But to date, his legal team is still waiting for Caguioa’s order to give them the printed images that were ready for transmittal to them since last year.  When the legal team of VP Robredo asked for the soft copies of the ballot images, he said, Caguioa quickly granted their request. As if it was not obvious, Marcos bewailed, Caguioa’s order gave them to his opponent without requiring the Vice President to pay a single centavo.

Caguioa is said to be a former classmate of ex-president Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III from elementary to college at the Ateneo de Manila College. During his term, ex-P-Noy first appointed Caguioa as his chief presidential legal counsel, later as acting Justice Secretary and finally to the SC. Ex-P-Noy is the patron of VP Robredo who is now the highest elected official of the LP camp.

Now that the dots are connected, Marcos fears he will not get a fair shake from the PET’s presiding officer.

Marcos has yet to decide if his lawyers will petition the SC en banc for the replacement of Caguioa. But it is just one of the possible options to even up the contest at the PET.

The LP camp immediately took up yesterday the cudgels for Caguioa on the complaints made by Marcos in public. Fellow LP, Senate minority leader Frank Drilon, Sen. Bam Aquino echoed the same criticisms against the ex-senator for having questioned the fairness of the PET composed of the entire SC justices. Sen. Francis Pangilinan, LP president, twitted Marcos for attacking Caguioa on rulings that did not favor his side but failed to mention the many favorable decisions that went to the way of Marcos.

The LP Senators won’t be having Marcos back at the Senate any sooner. Marcos ruled out a run for the 2019 Senate race.

Marcos found it stranger still the persistent public pronouncements by election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, lead counsel of his opponent. Marcos wondered why would Macalintal keep on issuing unsolicited advice to him that he should run for a Senate in the coming mid-term elections in 2019.

Bakit ko naman gagawin iyan? (Why would I do it?) I was already elected Vice President. If they (Robredo camp) have nothing to hide, they should do everything in their power to let the recount begin. What are they afraid of?” Marcos rhetorically asked.

“I will not give up on this (election) protest because I truly believe I was cheated in the last elections and I will bring out the true count of votes so that the people who voted for me deserve the truth and justice who they elected to become their next vice president,” Marcos declared.

Marcos vowed to do just that even as he faces less than six years remaining of the VP term. Thus, he categorically declared: “I am not running for senator in 2019.” There you are, mark these words coming from Marcos.

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