Just wishing aloud
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2019 - 12:00am

Both official lawyer spokesmen of VP Robredo confessed to having advised her to accept the ICAD post.

We had attorneys Romulo “Romy” Macalintal and Ibarra ”Barry” Gutierrez, both official spokesmen of Vice President Leni Robredo, as our featured guests in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Cafe Adriatico in Remedios Circle last Wednesday. Macalintal speaks on behalf of VP Robredo as her lead counsel in the still unresolved protest case before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). The VP results during the May 2016 elections were being questioned by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Gutierrez, on the other hand, is the official spokesman of Mrs. Robredo at the Office of the Vice President (OVP).

Originally, the OVP arranged with us last month her guesting to our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast forum. We have been trying to invite VP Robredo to join us in the past but to no avail. A common friend from the previous administration arranged to guest her – for the first time if ever to our news forum.

This was before Malacañang announced the new designation of the Vice President as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (ICAD). Actually, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the designation of Mrs. Robredro last Oct. 31 but belatedly released by the Palace last Nov. 4.

Both official lawyer spokesmen of VP Robredo claimed during our Kapihan sa Manila Bay conversations as having advised her to accept the ICAD post.

Macalintal returned to his first love as election lawyer and back as chief counsel of Mrs. Robredo in her PET case after he run but lost in the mid-term elections in May this year. Macalintal was one of the “Ocho Diretso” coalition senatorial candidates. Their entire opposition coalition senate slate was wiped out despite being endorsed by VP Robredo – as the nominal chieftain of the Liberal Party ((LP).

At the outset, Macalintal made it clear during our news forum he could only speak on behalf of his client about the present status of the still pending final resolution at the PET without violating the sub judice rule of the court, or discussing merits of the case.

A week after the Vice President officially assumed her new role as ICAD co-chairperson, Gutierrez told us the OVP has yet to get words if the Palace will amend Executive Order (EO) 15 that created the ICAD. Clearly, he pointed out the need to officially declare the Cabinet-ranked job of VP Robredo as ICAD co-chairperson per media announcement of presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. Gutierrez disclosed that VP Robredo already submitted to President Duterte a full report on the first meeting she had last Friday with the heads and representatives of the ICAD composed of 21 government agencies.

On Monday, Gutierrez announced, VP Robredo would appear in the plenary debate on the proposed 2020 budget bill at the Senate where she may raise with them her earlier request for additional funding of P15 million given to ICAD Secretariat.

In relation though to ICAD, Macalintal took the opportunity at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay to publicly appeal to Marcos as the “protestant” in the PET case against his client. “Because of the very busy schedule of the Vice President and the challenges now as co-chairperson of the anti-Illegal drugs campaign, Mr. Marcos perhaps can act as a statesman, or at least act of patriotism, love of country by extending his support to the Vice President, perhaps he could consider withdrawing his protest,” Macalintal urged.

“Because by withdrawing the protest, this would give the Vice President ample time of concentration on this very, very good, serious (ICAD) program now being undertaken by the Vice President,” Macalintal added. Macalintal clarified though he was not trying to get ahead of what Mr. Marcos will eventually decide on the latter’s own volition.

“Because I know he (Marcos) is a gentleman. In the character of Mr. Marcos, perhaps he can do this. Besides, this could even be a very, very graceful exit for protestant Bongbong Marcos,” Macalintal pointed out.

Macalintal hastily clarified his appeal to Marcos was merely echoing his personal opinion on the PET case and that does not reflect the side of VP Robredo. “I think she (VP) does not have time to think about her PET case but is preoccupied as co-chairperson of the ICAD. I hope everybody will support her. The VP is not a politician, but a true public servant. She really works very hard,” he noted.

The veteran election lawyer believes his appeal to ex-Sen. Marcos is also anchored on solid legal grounds. He particularly referred to the 13-0 unanimous decision of the PET where his client was able to recover 17,000 votes in the recounting as against the 2,000 or so votes recovered for Marcos from the three “pilot” provinces the latter chose. The Supreme Court (SC), however, decided to give both parties a 20-day period within which to comment on the revisions.

 Per clerk of court of the PET, Macalintal was informed both parties that the revisions are contained in 35 volumes of documents involved in the PET recount. Marcos, through his lawyers, filed motion to defer the 20-day period, citing it would be difficult – if not next to impossible – to go over these voluminous documents. “We also filed similar motion that we agreed with the protestant’s motion. We cannot do it in 20 days,” he admitted.

Macalintal conceded the SC en banc ruling on the twin motions might be delayed following the recent changes. Associate justice Diosdado Peralta took over as the new Chief Justice from erstwhile Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin. He and senior associate justice Antonio Carpio stepped down from office one after the other when both reached the mandatory age of retirement last month.

Consequently, the membership of SC justices to the PET was also raffled off. Associate Justice Marvic Leonen won the chairmanship of the PET and henceforth would handle this case to its final resolution. He took over from SC associate justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa who previously handled and ruled in favor of VP Robredo.

“Whoever handles it, I just hope it (the case) should be decided on the basis of law and facts obtaining of the case,” Macalintal making another wish aloud.

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