Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa will stay as the magistrate in charge of the resolution of the electoral protest of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo after the Supreme Court, acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, denied his request.
In a statement issued by the SC Public Information Office, the PET announced that it turned down the request of Caguioa for a reraffle of the case docketed as PET Case No. 005 to another member-in-charge.
The PET also debunked reports saying that Caguioa would be replaced as member-in-charge of the case who will write the Court’s draft decision.
“Contrary to these reports, there has been no change in the management of PET Case No. 005 as the request was denied unanimously,” the electoral tribunal said.
The PET was referring to an internal memorandum from Caguioa addressed to his colleagues and fellow justices seeking transfer of management to another PET justice.
In his purported internal memo, Caguioa expressed willingness to inhibit as member-in-charge to put an end to allegations hurled against him over the supposed delay in the resolution of the case, but will continue to participate in the voting of the case.
Caguioa lamented that he has 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.”
“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,” according to the purported memorandum published in a newspaper.
As ponente of member-in-charge of the case, Caguioa oversees the progress and ultimate disposition of the election protest. Despite the inordinate delays in his election protest, Marcos said he tried to remain above the fray out of respect to the PET.
Apart from denying the request of Caguioa, the PET also issued a warning on the leakage of the magistrate’s internal memorandum that was supposed to be confidential and privileged under the Tribunal’s rules.
“Reference has been made in the news items to a document that is both internal and privileged and which could only have been obtained or accessed unofficially. In the past, the Court has dealt severely with individuals and court personnel who have leaked privileged and confidential matters as well as pending matters,” the PET said in the statement.
The PET also appealed to the media “to be more circumspect and discerning in reporting unofficial and pending matters that have yet to be acted upon as they may mislead the public.”
While the PET rejected Caguioa’s plea, it has yet to act and decide on the urgent plea of Marcos earlier this month for his inhibition in his poll protest.
Marcos said Caguioa should recuse himself from further handling the case due to his association with Robredo and the Liberal Party.
“Associate Justice Caguioa cannot deny that he is biased towards the ‘yellow brigade’ given his close ties with his friend and former boss, former president Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III,” he said.
Marcos cited Caguioa’s fraternal bond with Aquino because they were classmates from grade school, high school and college at the Ateneo De Manila University – a fact which allegedly led to Caguioa’s appointment to various top posts during Aquino’s Presidency, including justice secretary and SC justice.
Marcos also told PET of the relation of Caguioa’s wife Pier Angela to Robredo.
He alleged that the magistrate’s wife was not only an anti-Marcos advocate but was also an ardent supporter of Robredo, having actively campaigned for her during the May 2016 elections.
“In light of the clear and convincing evidence of bias, partiality and prejudice exhibited by Associate Justice Caguiao and Mrs. Caguioa in favor of protestee Robredo, the continued presence and participation of Associate Justice Caguioa as the potent of the above-entitled case is a gross violation of the undersigned protestant’s constitution right to due process of law,” the motion said.
Marcos said Caguioa should immediately recuse himself from his protest in order not to taint the other members of the PET of any bias or impropriety.
Marcos sought Caguioa’s inhibition since filing his protest against Robredo two years ago while the PET is in the middle of its manual recount of votes on three pilot provinces.
Marcos filed the protest on June 29 2016, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in the May 2016 national polls.
Robredo won the vice presidential race in the May 2016 polls with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos’ 14,155,344 votes.